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Of this edition loo copies only have been printed, 
of which this is No/.<.lJ 



{IjCS Conlidims sani h imt^if) 


wit* a Pf/j;t b) 



Edinburgh : T and A. Constablb, Printers to Her Ma|eaty 






jS MAN OF BUSINESS . . . . . .113 






APPEARED AT BIXIOu's ROOMS (p. 22) . • Front'np'uce 







Drawn and Etched by W* Boucher . 


A Prince of Bohemia^ the first of the short stories which 
Balzac originally chose as make-weights to associate 
with the long drama of Splendeurs et Miser es des Cour tisanes j 
is one of the few things that, both in whole and in part, 
one would very much rather he had not written. Its 
dedication to Heine only brings out its shortcomings. For 
Heine, though he could certainly be as spiteful and 
unjust as Balzac here shows himself, never feiled to 
carry the laugh on his side. You may wish him, in his 
lampoons, better morals and better taste, but you can 
seldom wish him better literature. Had he made this 
attack on Sainte-Beuve, we should certainly not have 
yawned over it ; and it is rather amusing to think of 
the sardonic smile with which the dedicatee must have 
read Balzac's comfortable assurance that he, Heinrich 
Heine, would understand the plaisanterie and the 
critique which Un Prince de la Boheme contains. Heine 
* understood ' most things ; but if understanding, as is 
probable, here includes sympathetic enjoyment, we may 

It was written at the same time, or very nearly so, as 
the more serious attack on Sainte-Beuve in August 1840, 
and, like that, appeared in Balzac's own Revue Parisiennej 
though it was somewhat later. The thread, such as 


X Preface 

there is, of interest is twofold — the description of the 
Bohemian grand seigneur Rusticoli or La Palferine, and 
the would-be satire on Sainte-Beuve. It is difficult to say 
which is least well done. Both required an exceedingly 
light hand, and Balzac's hand was at no time light. 
Moreover, in the sketch of La Palferine he commits the 
error — nearly as great in a book as on the stage, where I 
am told it is absolutely htaA — of delineating his hero with 
a sort of sneaking kindness which is neither dramatic 
impartiality nor satiric raillery. La Palferine as por- 
trayed is a * raflF,' with a touch of no aristocratic quality 
except insolence. He might have been depicted with 
cynically concealed savagery, as Swift would have done 
it ; with humorous ridicule, as Gautier or Charles de 
Bernard would have done it; but there was hardly a third 
way. As it is, the sneaking kindness above referred 
to is one of the weapons in the hands of those who— 
unjustly if it be done without a great deal of limitation 
— contend that Balzac's ideal of a gentleman was low, 
and that he had a touch of snobbish admiration for mere 

Here, however, it is possible for a good-natured 
critic to put in the apology that the artist has tried 
something unto which he was not born, and £uling 
therein, has apparently committed faults greater than 
his real ones. This kindness is impossible in the case of 
the parodies, which are no parodies, of Sainte-Beuve. 
From the strictly literary point of view, it is disastrous 
to give as a parody of a man's work, with an intention of 
casting ridicule thereon, something which is not in the 
least like that work, and which in consequence only casts 
ridicule on its author. To the criticism which takes in 



life as well as literature, it is a disaster to get in childish 
rages with people because they do not think your work 
so good as you think it yourself. And it is not known 
that Balzac had to complain of Sainte-Beuve in any 
other way than this, though he no doubt read into what 
Sainte-Beuve wrote a great deal more than Sainte-Beuve 
did say. There is a story (I think unpublished) that a 
certain very great English poet of our times once met 
an excellent critic who was his old friend (they are both 

dead now). * What do you mean by calling vulgar ? * 

growled the poet. — *I didn't call it vulgar,* said the 
critic. — ^ No ; but you meant it,' rejoioed the bard. On 
this system of interpretation it is of course possible to 
accumulate crimes with great rapidity on a censor's 
head. But it cannot be said to be itself a critical or 
rational proceeding. And it must be said that if an 
author does reply, against the advice of Bacon and all 
wise people, he should reply by something better than 
the spluttering abuse of the Revue Parisienne article or 
the inept and irrelevant parody of this story. 

Un Homnu d* Affaires^ relieved of this unlucky weight, 
is better, but it also, in the eyes of some readers, does 
not stand very high. La Palferine reappears, and that 
more exalted La Palferine Maxime de Trailles, * Balzac's 
pet scoundrel,' as some one has called him, though not 
present, is the hero of the tale, which is artificial and 
slight enough. 

Gaudissart IL and Les Comediens sans le savolr are 
much better. The first, of course, is very slight, and 
the * Anglaise ' is not much more like a human being 
than most 'Anglaises' in French novels till quite recently. 
But the anecdote is amusing enough, and it is well and 

xii Preface 

smartly told. The longer and much more important 
story which follows seems to me one of the best and 
most amusing of what may be called (though it might 
also be called by a dozen other names) the Bixiou cycle 
of stories, in which journalism, art, provincials in Paris, 
young persons of the other sex with more beauty than 
morals, and so forth, play a somewhat artificial but often 
amusing series of scenes and characters. In this par- 
ticular division of the series the satire is happy, the 
adventures are agreeably jfrabian^Nightish with a modern 
adjustment, the central figure of the Southern Gazonal 
is good in itself, and an excellent rallying-point for the 
others, and the good-natured mystification played oflF on 
him is a pleasant dream. I think, indeed, that there is 
little doubt that the late Mr. Stevenson took his idea of 
New Arabian Nights from Balzac, of whom he was an 
unwearied student, and I do not know that Balzac him- 
self was ever happier in his * Parisian Nights,' as we may 
call them, than here. The artists and the actresses, the 
corn-cutters and the fortune-tellers, the politicians, the 
money-lenders, the furnishers of garments, and all the 
rest, appear and disappear in an easy phantasmagoric 
fashion which Balzac's expression does not always 
achieve except when his imagination is at a white heat 
not easily excited by such slight matter as this. The 
way in which the excellent Gazonal is forced to recognise 
the majesty of the capital may not be in exact accordance 
with the views of the grave and precise, but it is a 
pleasant fairy tale, and there is nothing so good as a 
fairy tale. 

Of two other stories which have been included in 
this volume for reasons of mechanical convenience. La 

Preface xiii 

Maison Nuctngen has additional interests of various kinds. 
The story of Madame Surville, and the notary, and his 
testimony to Balzac's competence in bankruptcy matters, 
have been referred to in the General Introduction. La 
Maison Nuctngen is scarcely less an example of this 
than Cesar Birotteau. It is also a curious study of 
Parisian business generally, showing the intense and 
extraordinary interest which Balzac took in anything 
speculative. Evil tongues at the time identified Nucin- 
gen with the first Rothschild of the Paris branch, but 
the resemblances are of the most general and distant 
kind. Indeed, it may be said that Balzac, to his infinite 
honour both in character and genius, seldom indulged in 
the clumsy lugging in of real persons by head and 
shoulders which has come into fashion since his time, 
especially in France. Even where there are certain 
resemblances, as in Henri de Marsay to Charles de 
Remusat, in Rastignac to Thiers, in Lousteau to Jules 
Janin, and elsewhere, the borrowed traits are so blended 
and disguised with others, and the whole so melted 
down and reformed by art, that not merely could no 
legitimate anger be aroused by them, but the artist 
could not be accused of having in any way exceeded 
his rights as an artist and his duty as a gentleman. 
If he has ever stepped out of these wise and decent 
limits, the transgression is very rare, and certainly Nu- 
cingen is not an example of it. For the rest, the story 
itself is perhaps more clever and curious than exactly 

Facino Cane did not originally rank in the Parisian 
Scenes at all, but was a Conte Phihsophtque. It is 
slight and rather fanciful, the chief interest lying in 

XIV Preface 

Balzac's unfailing fellow-feeling for all those who dream 
of millions, as he himself did all his life long, only to 
exemplify the moral of his own Ptau de Chagrin. 

Un Prince de la Boheme^ in its Revue Parisienne 
appearance, bore the title of Les Fantaisies de Claudine^ 
but when, four years later, it followed Honorine in book- 
form, it took the present label. The Comedie received 
it two years later. Gaudissart II. was written for a 
miscellany called Le Diable a Paris ; but as this delayed 
its appearance, it was first inserted in the Presse for 
October 12, 1844, under a slightly different title, which 
it kept in the Diable. Almost immediately, however, 
it joined the Comedie under its actual heading. Un 
Homme d* Affaires appeared in the SiecU for September 10, 
1845, and was dien called Z/x Roueries d*un Creancier^ 
It entered the Comedie almost at once, but made an 
^cursion therefrom to join, in 1847, ^^ menent les 
mauvais chemins and others as Un Drame dans les Prisons. 
Les Comediens sans le savoir appeared in the Courrier 
Franfais during April 1846, and also went pretty 
straight into the Comedie. But in 1848 it did outpost- 
duty with some other short stories as Le Provincial a 
Paris. There are some interesting minor details as its 
variants which must be sought in M. de Lovenjoul. 

La Maison Nucingen (which the author also thought 
of calling La Haute Banque) originally appeared with 
La Femme Superieure {Les Employes) and that part of 
Splendeurs et AUseres entitled La Torpille^ in October 
1838, published by Werdet in two volumes. Six years 
later it took rank as a Scene de la Vie Parisienne in 
the first edition of the Comedie. 

Before this appearance, Les Employes had appeared 

Preface xv 

in the Presse. Facino Cane is Btirly contemporary 

with these, having first seen the light in the Chroniqui 

de Paris of March 17, 1836. Next year it became 

an Etude Philosophtque. It had another grouped 

appearance (with La Muse du Departement and Albert 

Savarus) in 1843, ^^^ entered the Comidii the year 




To M. le Comte Jules de Castellane. 

Leon de Lora, the famous French landscape painter, 
belongs to one of the noblest &milies of Roussillon. 
The Loras came originally from Spain ; and while they 
are distinguished for their ancient lineage, for the last 
century they have faithfully kept up the traditions of the 
hidalgo's proverbial poverty. Leon himself came up to 
Paris on foot from his department of the Pyrenees- 
Orientales with the sum of eleven francs in his pocket 
for all viaticum ; and in some sort forgot the hardships of 
childhood and the poverty at home in the later hard- 
ships which a young dauber never lacks when his whole 
fortune consists in an intrepid vocation. Afterwards 
the absorbing cares brought by fame and success still 
further helped him to forget. 

If you have followed the tortuous and capricious 
course of these Studies, you may perhaps recollect one 
of the heroes of Un Debut dans la Vie^ Schinner's pupil, 
Mistigris, who reappears from time to time in various 

You would not recognise the frisky penniless dauber 
in the landscape painter of 1845, ^^^ ^^^^ ^^ Hobbema, 
Ruysdael, and Claude Lorrain. Lora is a great man. 
He lives near his old master Hippolyte Schinner in a 
charming house (his own property) in the Rue de 
Berlin, not very far from the Hotel de Brambourg, 
where his friend Bridau lives. He is a member of the 

2 The Unconscious Mummers 

Institut and an officer of the Legion of Honour, he has 
twenty thousand francs a year, his work fetches its 
weight in gold ; and, fact even more extraordinary (as 
he thinks) than the invitations to court balls which he 
sometimes receives — the fame of a name published abroad 
over Europe by the press for the last sixteen years at 
length reached the valley in the Pyrenees-Orientales, 
where three Loras of the old stock were vegetating — to 
wit, his elder brother, his fiither, and a paternal aunt. 
Mile. Urraca y Lora. 

On the mother's side no relatives remained to the 
painter save a cousin, aged fifty, living in a little manu- 
facturing town in the department, but that cousin was 
the first to remember Leon. So hr back as 1840 Leon 
de Lora received a letter from M. Sylvestre Palafox- 
Castel-Gazonal (usually known as plain Gazonal), to 
which letter Lora replied that he really was himself — 
that is to say, that he really was the son of the late 
Leonie Gazonal, wife of Comte Fernand Didas y Lora. 

Upon this, in the summer of 1841, Cousin Sylvestre 
Gazonal went to apprise the illustrious but obscure house 
of Lora of the &ct that young Leon had not sailed for 
the River Plate, nor was he dead, as they supposed ; but 
he was one of the finest geniuses of the modern French 
school — which they refused to believe. The elder 
brother, Don Juan de Lora, told his cousin Gazonal that 
he, Gazonal, had been hoaxed by some Parisian wag. 

Time went on, and the said Gazonal found himself 
involved in a lawsuit, which the prefect of the Pyrenees- 
Orientales summarily stopped on a question of disputed 
jurisdiction and transferred to the Council of State. 
Gazonal proposed to himself to go to Paris to watch his 
case, and at the same time to clear up this matter, and to 
call the Parisian painter to account for his impertinence. 
To this end, M. Gazonal sallied forth from his furnished 
lodgings in the Rue Croix des Petits Champs, and was 
astonished at the sight of the palace in the Rue de 

The Unconscious Mummers 3 

Berlin ; and, learning on inquiry that its owner was 
travelling in Italy, renounced for the time being the 
intention of asking him for satisfaction. His mind mis- 
gave him whether the great man would consent to own 
his mother's nephew. 

Through 1843 ^"^ ^^44 Gazonal followed the for- 
tunes of his lawsuit.^ The local authorities, supported 
by the riparian owners, proposed to remove a weir on 
the river. The very existence of Gazonal's factory was 
threatened. In 1845 he looked on the case as lost 
beyond hope. The secretary of the Master of Requests, 
who drew up the report, told him in confidence that it 
was un&vourable to his claims, and his own barrister 
confirmed the news. Gazonal, at home a commandant 
of the National Guard, and as shrewd a manufacturer as 
you would find in his department, in Paris felt so utterly 
insignificant, and found the cost of living so high, that 
he kept close in his shabby lodging. 

The child of the Souto, deprived of the sun, poured 
maledictions upon Paris, that ' rheumatism factory,' as 
he called it; and when he came to reckon up the 
expenses of his stay, vowed to himself to poison the 
prefect or to * minotaurise ' him on his return. In 
gloomier moments he slew the prefect outright ; then he 
cheered up a little, and contented himself with 'rnino- 
taurising ' the culprit. 

One morning after breakfast, inwardly storming, he 
snatched the newspaper up savagely, and the following 
lines caught his eye at the end of a paragraph : * Our 
great landscape painter, Leon de Lora, returned from 
Italy a month ago. He is sending a good deal of his 
work to the Salon this year, so we may look forward to 
a very brilliant exhibition * The words rang in Gazo- 
nal's ears like the inner voice which tells the gambler that 
he will win. With Southern impetuosity, Gazonal 
dashed out of the house, hailed a cab, and went to his 
cousin's house in the Rue de Berlin. 

The Unconscious Mummers 

« ^NUt ^ Lcm happened to be engaged at the moment, 
^1%; hr i<<Kt a message asking his relative to breakfast 
^»lfV "htm next day at the Cafe de Paris. Gazonal, like 
i Minr. ^ tlie South, poured out his woes to the valet. 

\^^\^ nKvning, overdressed for the occasion in a coat 
^ ^viMjHCvKkle blue, with gilt buttons, a frilled shirt, 
v«kiy4 W waUtcoat, and veliow kid gloves, Gazonal fidgeted 
t^^ Wht Jown the boulevard for an hour and a half, after 
>«H^.^Mti$ from the cafetier (so provincials call the pro- 
l^ijtHvt ^ a cafe) that gentlemen usually breakfasted 
t)«K«t«n eleven and twelve. 

^ v\hout half-past eleven,* so he used to tell the story 
,i^t^ wards to everybody at home, 'two Parisians in 
^n turtouts, looking like nobodies, came along the 
|>i^levmrd, and cried out as soon as they saw me, '^ Here 
v\MUti your Gazonal ! "* 

l^he second comer was Bixiou, brought on purpose to 
^ viraw out ' Leon's cousin. 

^ And then,' he would continue, ' young Leon 
t^ugged me in his arms and cried, '^ Do not be cross, 
dtar cousin ; I am very much yours." — The break^t 
was sumptuous. I rubbed my eyes when I saw so many 
gold pieces put down on the bill. These fellows must 
be making their weight in gold, for my cousin gave the 
waiter thirty sols — a whole day's wages ! ' 

Over that monster breakfot, in the course of which 
they consumed six dozen Ostend oysters, half a dozen 
cutlets a la Soubise, a chicken a la Marengo, a lobster 
mayonaise, mushrooms on toast, and green peas, to say 
nothing of hors cTawreSy washed down with three bottles 
of bordeaux, three of champagne, several cups of cofFee 
and liqueurs, Gazonal launched forth into magnificent 
invective on the subject of Paris. The noble manufac- 
turer complained of the length of the four-pound loaves, 
of the height of the houses, of the callous indifference 
towards each other displayed by the passers-by, of the 
cold, of the rain, of the fares charged by the ' demi- 

The Unconscious Mummers 5 

fiacres ' — and all so amusingly, that the pair of artists 
warmed towards him and asked for the story of his law- 

*The histor-r-ry of my lawsuit,' said he, rolling his 
r*s and accentuating every word in Provencal fashion, 
*the histor-r-ry of my lawsuit is quite simple. They 
want my factory. I find a fool of a barrister, I give 
him twenty francs every time to keep his eyes open, and 
always find him &st asleep. He is a shell-less snail that 
rolls about in a carriage while I go on foot. They 
have swindled me shamefully ; I do nothing but go from 
one to another, and I see that I ought to have gone in a 
carriage. They will not look at you here unless you 
hide yourself out of sight in a carriage. On the other 
hand, in the Council of State they are a pack of do- 
nothings that leave a set of little rascals in our prefect's 
pay to do their work for them. . . • That is the history 
of my lawsuit. They want my factory ! J? be they 
will get it. . . . And they can fight it out with my 
workpeople, a hundred strong, that will give them a 
cudgelling which will make them change their 
minds ' 

* Come now, cousin, how long have you been here ? * 
inquired the landscape painter. 

*For two whole years. Oh that prefect and his 
"disputed jurisdiction," he shall pay dear for it ; I will 
have his life, and give mine for it at the Assize 
Court ' 

* Which Councillor is chairman of your committee ? ' 
*An ex-journalist, not worth ten sols^ though they 

call him Massol.' 

Lora and Bixiou exchanged glances. 

* And the commissioner ? * 

* Funnier still! It is a Master of Requests, a pro- 
fessor of something or other at the Sorbonne ; he used 
to write for some review. I p-r-rofess the deepest dis- 
respect for him-—* 

6 The Unconscious Mummers 

* Claude VIgnon ? ' suggested Bixiou. 

* That is the name — £bssol and Vignon, that is the 
style of the unstable firm of bandits {Trestaillons) in 
league with my prefect.' 

' There is hope for it yet,' said Leon de Lora. * You 
can do anything, you see, in Paris, cousin — ^anything, 
good or bad, just or unjust. Anything can be done or 
undone, or done over again here.* 

* I will be hanged if I will stop in it for another ten 
seconds ; it is the dullest place in France.' 

As he spoke, the three were pacing up and down that 
stretch of asphalt on which you can scarcely walk of 
an afternoon without meeting somebody whose name 
has been proclaimed from Fame's trumpet, for good 
or ill. The ground shifts. Once it used to be the 
Place Royale, then the Pont Neuf possessed a privilege 
transferred in our day to the Boulevard des Italiens. 

The landscape painter held forth for his cousin's bene- 
fit. * Paris,' said he, *is an instrument which a man 
must learn to play. If we stop here for ten minutes, 
I will give you a lesson. There ! look,' he continued, 
raising his cane to point out a couple that issued from 
the Passage de I'Opera. 

* What is it ? ' inquired Gazonal. 

* It * was an elderly woman dressed in a very showy 
gown, a faded tartan shawl, and a bonnet that had spent 
six months in a shop window. Her fiice told of a 
twenty years' residence in a damp porter's lodge, and her 
bulging market-basket showed no less clearly that the 
ex-portress had not improved her social position. By 
her side walked a slim and slender damsel. Her eyes, 
shaded with dark lashes, had lost their expression of 
innocence, her complexion was spoiled with overwork, 
but her features were prettily cut, her face was fresh, 
her hair looked thick, her brows pert and engaging, her 
figure lacked fulness — in two words, it was a green 

The Unconscious Mummers 7 

* It,* answered Bixiou, ' is a " rat *' equipped with her 

* A r-r-rat ? ^esaco f ' 

Leon favoured Mile. Ninette with a little friendly 

*The **rat" may win your lawsuit for you,* he said. 
Gazonal started, but Bixiou had him by the arm. It 
had struck him as they left the cafe that the Southern 
countenance was a trifle flushed. 

'The rat has just come from a rehearsal at the 
Opera. It is on its way home to its scanty dinner. In 
three hours' time it will come back to dress, if it comes 
on this evening in the ballet, that is, for to-day is 
Monday. The rat has reached the age of thirteen ; it is 
an old rat already. In two years' time the creature's 
market-price will be sixty thousand francs ; she will be 
everything or nothing, a great dancer or a super, she 
will have a name in the world or she will be a common 
prostitute. Her working life began at the age of eight. 
Such as you see her to-day she is exhausted ; she over- 
tired herself this morning at the dancing class ; she has 
just come out of a rehearsal as full of head-splitting ins 
and outs as a Chinese puzzle ; and she will come back 
again to-night. The rat is one of the foundation stones 
of the Opera ; the rat is to{the leading lady of the ballet 
as the little clerk is to the notary. The rat is Hope.' 

* Who brings the rat into the world ? ' asked Gazonal. 
^ Porters, poor folk, actors, and dancers,' said Bixiou. 

* Nothing but the direst poverty could induce an eight- 

{ rear-old child to bear such torture of feet and joints, to 
ead a well-conducted life till she is sixteen or eighteen 
years old (simply as a business speculation), and to keep 
a hideous old woman always with her like stable-litter 
about some choice plant. — You will see genius of every 
kind go past — artists in the bud and artists run to seed — 
all of them engaged in rearing that ephemeral monument 
to the glory of France, called the Opera; a daily 

H The Unconscious Mummers 

r Olio wed combination of physical and mental strei^th, 
will Hiid genius, found nowhere but in Paris.* 

* 1 have already seen the Opera,' Gazonal remarked 
with a self-sufficient air. 

^ Yes, from your bench at three francs sixty centimes, 
as you have seen Paris fix>m the Rue Croix des Petits 
Champs — without knowing anything about it. What 
did they give at the Opera when you went ? ' 

* miliam TeU: 

^Good/ returned Leon, 'you must have enjoyed 
Mathilde's great duet. Well, what do you suppose the 
prima donna did as soon as she went off the stage ? ' 

i Did ?— What ? • 

*• Sat down to two mutton cutlets, underdone, which 
her servant had prepared for her * 

«Ah! boujgfreV 

^ Malibran kept herself up with brandy — it was that 
that killed her. Now for something else. You have 
seen the ballet ; now you have just seen the ballet go 
past in plain morning dress, not knowing that your 
lawsuit depends upon those feet ? ' 

* My lawsuit ? * 

'There, cousin, there goes a marcheuse^ as she is 

Leon pointed out one of the superb creatures that 
have lived sixty years of life at five-and-twenty ; a 
beauty so unquestioned, so certain to be sought, that she 
keeps in the shade. She was tall, she walked well, with 
a dandy's assured air, and her toilette was striking by 
reason of its ruinous simplicity. 

' That is Carabine,' said Bixiou, as he and the painter 
nodded slightly, and Carabine answered with a smile. 

' There goes another who can cashier your prefect.' 

' A marcheuse is often a very handsome *' rat " sold by 
her real or pretended mother so soon as it is certain 
that she can neither rank as a first, nor second, nor 
third-rate dancer; or else she prefers her calling of 

The Unconscious Mummers 9 

coryphee to any other, perhaps because she has spent her 
youth in learning to dance and knows how to do nothing 
else. She met no doubt with rebuffs at the minor 
theatres 3 she cannot hope to succeed in the three 
French cities which maintain a corps de ballety she has 
no money, or no wish to go abroad, for you must know 
that the great Paris school trains dancers for the rest of 
the civilised world. If a rat becomes a marcheusey that 
is to say, a figurante^ she must have had some weighty 
reason for staying in Paris — some rich man whom she 
did not love, that is to say, or a poor young fellow whom 
she loved too well. The one that passed just now will 
dress or undress three times in an evening as a princess, 
a peasant-girl, a Tyrolese, and the like, and gets perhaps 
two hundred francs a month.' 

* She is better dressed than our pr-r-refect's wife.' 

^ If you went to call on her, you would find a maid, a 
cook, and a manservant in her splendid establishment in 
the Rue Saint-Georges,' said Bixiou. ^ But, after all, as 
modern incomes are to the revenues of the eighteenth 
century noblesse, so is she to the eighteenth century 
Opera girl, a mere wreck of former greatness. Carabine 
is a power in the land. At this moment she rules du 
Tillet, a banker with a good deal of influence in the 
Chamber ' 

^And the higher ranks of the ballet, how about 
them ? ' 

^ Look ! ' said Lora, pointing out an elegant carriage 
which crossed the Boulevard and disappeared down the 
Rue de la Grange-Bateliere, * there goes one of our 
leading ladies of the ballet ; put her name on the placards, 
and she will draw all Paris ; she is making sixty thousand 
francs per annum, she lives like a princess. The price 
of your factory would not buy you the right of wishing 
her a good morning thirty times.' 

^ Eh be! I can easily say it to myself; it will cost 

10 The Unconscious Mummers 

^Do you see that good-looking young man on the 
front seat ? He is a yicomte bearing a great name, and 
he is her first gentleman of the chamber ; he arranges 
with the newspapers for her ; he carries peace or declares 
war of a morning on the manager of the Opera ; or he 
makes it his business to superintend the applause when 
she comes on or off the stage.' 

^ My good sirs, this beats everything ; I had not a 
suspicion of Paris as it is,' 

^ Oh well, at any rate you may as well find out what 
may be seen in ten minutes in the Passage de I'Openu — 
There ! ' exclaimed Bixiou. 

Two persons, a man and a woman, came out as he 
spoke. The woman was neither pretty nor plain; 
there was a certain distinction that revealed the artist 
in the fashion and colour of her gown. The man looked 
rather like a minor canon. 

^That is a double-bass and a second premier sujet^ 
continued Bixiou. ^The double-bass is a tremendous 
genius; but the double-bass, being a mere accessory in 
the score, scarcely makes as much as the dancer. The 
second sujet made a great name before Taglioni and 
Elssler appeared; she preserved the traditions of the 
character dance among us ; she would have been in the 
first rank to-day if the other two had not come to 
reveal undreamed-of poetry in the dance ; as it is, she is 
only in the second rank, and yet she draws her thirty 
thousand francs, and has a faithful friend in a peer of 
France with great influence in the Chamber. Look ! 
here comes the third-rate dancer, a dancer that owes her 
(professional) existence to the omnipotent press. If her 
engagement had not been renewed, the men in office 
would have had one more enemy on their backs. The 
corps de ballet is the great power at the Opera; for 
which reason, in the upper ranks of dandyism and 
politics, it is much better form to make a connection 
among the dancers than among the singers. ^^Monsieur 

The Unconscious Mummers ii 

goes in for music/' is a kind of joke among the frequen- 
ters of the Opera in the orchestra.' 

A short, ordinary-looking, plainly-dressed man went 

* At last here comes the other half of the receipts — 
the tenor. There is no poetry, no music, no acting 
possible without a famous tenor that can take a certain 
high note. The tenor means the element of love, a 
voice that reaches the heart, that thrills the soul ; and 
when this voice resolves itself into figures, it means a 
larger income than a cabinet minister's. A hundred 
thousand francs for a throat, a hundred thousand for a 
pair of ankles — behold the two financial scourges of the 

^ It fills me with amazement to see so many hundred 
thousand francs walking about,' said Gazonal. 

^ You will soon see a great deal more, dear cousin of 
mine. Come with us. — We will take Paris as an artist 
takes up the violoncello, and show you how to play the 

freat instrument, show you how we amuse ourselves in 
aris in fact.' 

^ It is a kaleidoscope seven leagues round,' cried Gazonal. 
^ Before we begin to pilot this gentleman, I must see 
Gaillard,' began Bixiou. 

^ And Gaillard may help us in the cousin's affairs.' 

* What is the new scene ? ' 

^ It is not a scene, but a scene-shifter. Gaillard is a 
friend of ours ; he has come at last to be the managing 
director of a newspaper ; his character, like his cash-box, 
is chiefly remarkable for its tidal ebb and flow. Gaillard 
possibly may help to win your lawsuit.' 

* It IS lost ' 

* Just the time to win it then ! ' returned Bixiou. 
Arrived at Theodore Gaillard's house in the Rue de 

Menars, the friends were informed by the footman that 
his master was engaged. It was a private interview. 

* With whom ? inquired Bixiou. 

12 The Unconscious Mummers 

^ With a man that is driving a bargain to imprison a 
debtor that cannot be caught,' said a voice, and a very 
handsome woman appeared in a dainty morning gown. 

^ In that case, dear Suzanne, the rest of us may walk 
in ' 

^ Oh ! what a lovely creature ! ' cried Gazonal. 

^ That is Mme. Gaillard,' said Leon de Lora ; and, 
lowering his voice for his cousin's ear, he added, ^ You 
see before you, dear fellow, as modest a woman as you 
will find in Paris ; she has retired from public life, and 
is contented with one husband.' 

^ What can I do for you, my lords ? ' said the facetious 
managing director, imitating Frederick Lemaitre. 

Theodore Gaillard had been a clever man ; but, as so 
often happens in Paris, he had grown stupid with staying 
too long in the same groove. The principal charm of 
his conversation consisted in tags of quotation with which 
it was garnished, bits from popular plays mouthed after 
the manner of some well-known actor. 

* We have come for a chat,' said Leon. 

* Encore^ jeune home ! ' (Odry in Les Saltimbanques,) 
^This time we shall have him for certain,' said 

Gaillard's interlocutor by way of conclusion. 

' Are you quite sure of that. Daddy Fromenteau ? 
This is the eleventh time that we have had him fast at 
night, and in the morning he was gone.' 

' What can you do ? I never saw such a debtor. 
He is like a locomotive, he goes to sleep in Paris and 
wakes up in Seine-et-Oise. He is a puzzle for a lock- 

Seeing Gaillard smile, he added, ^ That is how we 
talk in our line. You "nab" a man, or you lock 
him up; that means you arrest him. They talk 
differently in the criminal police. Vidocq used to say 
to his man, ** They have got it ready for you ! " which 
was all the funnier because " it " meant the guillo- 

The Unconscious Mummers 13 

Bixiou jogged Gazonal's elbow, and at once the 
visitor became all eyes and ears. ^ Does monsieur give 
palm oil ? ' continued Fromenteau, quite quietly, though 
there was a perceptible shade of menace in the tone. 

^ It is a matter of fifty centimes,' said Gaillard (a 
reminiscence of Odry in Les Saltimbanques)^ as he handed 
over five francs to Fromenteau. 

^ And for the blackguards ? ' the man went on. 

* Who are they ? ' 

* Those in my employ/ Fromenteau replied imper- 

* Is there any one lower yet ? ' asked Bixiou. 

*Oh yes, sir,' the detective replied. 'There are 
some that give us information unconsciously and get 
no pay for it. I put flats and noodles lower than 

^The blackguards are often very good-looking and 
clever,' exclaimed Leon. 

^ Then do you belong to the police ? ' asked Gazonal, 
uneasily and curiously eyeing this little wizened, impas- 
sive person, dressed like a solicitor's under clerk. 

* Which kind do you mean ? ' returned Fromenteau. 

* Are there several kinds ? ' 

^ As many as five,' said Fromenteau. ' There is the 
Criminal Department (Vidocq used to be at the head of 
it) ; the Secret Superintendence (no one knows the chief) ; 
the Political Department (Fouche's own) ; and the 
Chateau, the system directly in the employ of the 
Emperor and Louis xviii., and so on. The Chateau 
was always squabbling with the other department at the 
Quai Malaquais. That came to an end with M. 
Decazes. I used to belong to Louis xviii. ; I have 
been in the force ever since 1793 along with poor 

The listeners looked at one another, each with one 
thought in their minds — * How many men's heads has 
he cut off?' 

14 The Unconscious Mumrtiers 

^ And now they want to do without us — tomfoolery ! ' 
added the little man that had grown so terrific all on a 
sudden. ^ Since 1830 they will only employ respectable 
people at the prefecture ; I sent in my resignation, and 
learned my little knack of nabbing prisoners for debt.' 

^ He is the right hand of the commercial police/ said 
Gaillard, lowering his voice for Bixiou ; ^ but you can 
never tell whether debtor or creditor pays him most.' 

*The dirtier the business, the more need for strict 
honesty/ said Fromenteau sententiously ; *I am for 
those that pay best. You want to recover fifty thou- 
sand francs, and you higgle over &rthings* Give me 
five hundred francs, and to-morrow morning we will 
have him in quod.' 

* Five hundred francs for you yourself ! ' cried Theo- 
dore Gaillard. 

^ ^^ Lisette wants a shawl," ' answered the detective 
without moving a muscle of his countenance. * I call 
her " Lisette " because of Beranger.' 

^ You have a Lisette, and still you stay in your line ! ' 
cried the virtuous Gazonal. 

^ It is so amusing. Talk of field sports ; it is for more 
interesting to run a man to earth in Paris ! ' 

^ They must be uncommonly clever to do it, and that 
is a fact,' said Gazonal, thinking aloud. 

^ Oh, if I were to reckon up all the qualities that a man 
needs if he is to make his mark in our line, you would 
think I was describing a man of genius,' replied Fromen- 
teau, taking Gazonal's measure at a glance. ^You 
must be lynx-eyed, must you not? Bold — for you 
must drop into a house like a bombshell, walk up to 
people as if you had known them all your life, and 
propose the never-refused dirty business, and so on. — 
You must have Memory, Sagacity, Invention — for 
you must be quick to think of expedients, and never 
repeat yourself; espionage must always be moulded 
on the individual character of those with whom you 

The Unconscious Mummers 15 

have to do— but invention is a gift of Heaven. Then 
you need agility, strength, and so on. All these faculties, 
gentlemen, are painted up over the door of Amoros's 
Gymnasium as virtues. All these things we must 
possess under penalty of forfeiting the salary of a 
hundred francs per month paid us by the Government, 
in the Rue de Jerusalem, or the commercial police.' 

^And you appear to me to be a remarkable man,' 
said Gazonal. Fromenteau looked at him, but he 
neither answered nor showed any sign of feeling, and 
went away without taking leave, an unmistakable sign 
of genius. 

^ Well, cousin, you have just seen the police incarnate,' 
said Leon. 

^ I have had quite as much as I want,' returned the 
honest manu&cturer. Gaillard and Bixiou chatted 
together meanwhile in an undertone. 

^ I will send round an answer to-night to Carabine's,' 
Gaillard said aloud; and sitting down to his desk, he 
took no further notice of Gazonal. 

^ Insolence ! ' fumed the child of the South on the 

^His paper has twenty-two thousand subscribers,' 
said Leon de Lora. ^ He is one of the great powers of 
the age ; he has not time to be polite of a morning.' 

^ If go we must to the Chamber to arrange this law- 
suit, let us take the longest way round,' said Leon. 

* Great men's sayings are like silver gilt,' retorted 
Bixiou ; ^ use wears the gilt off the silver, and all the 
sparkle goes out of the sayings if they are repeated. But 
where are we going ? ' 

* To see our hatter near by,' returned Leon. 

* Bravo ! If we go on like this, we may perhaps have 
some fun.' 

* Gazonal,' began Leon, * I will draw him out for 
your benefit. Only — you must look as solenm as a 
king on a five-franc piece, for you are going to see gratis 

1 6 The Unconscious Mummers 

an uncommonly queer quiz ; the man's self-importance 
has turned his head. In these days, my dear feUow. 
everybody wants to cover himself with glory, and a ffooo 
many cover themselves with ridicule, and hence we nave 
entirely new living caricatures * 

^ When everybody is glorious together, how is a man 
to distinguish himself? ' asked Gazonal. 

^Distinguish yourself?' repeated Bixiou — ^be a 
noodle. Your cousin wears a ribbon; I am well 
dressed, and people look at me, not at him.' 

After this remark, which may perhaps explain why so 
many orators and other great politicians never appear 
in the streets with a ribbon in their button-holes, Leon 
de Lora pointed out a name painted in gilt letters over 
a shop front. It was the illustrious name of an author 
of a pamphlet on hats, a person who pays newspaper 
proprietors as much for advertisements as any three 
vendors of sugar-plums or patent pills — Vital it ran 
(late Finot), hat manufacturer, not plain hatter, 
as heretofore, 

Bixiou called Ga2x>nal's attention to the glories of 
the shop window, ^ Vital, my dear boy, is making 
forty thousand francs per annum.' 

^ And he is still in business as a hatter ! ' exclaimed 
Gazonal, nearly breaking Bixiou's arm with a violent 

^ You shall see the man directly,' added Leon ; ^ you 
want a hat, you shall have one gratis.' 

^Is M« Vital not in ?' asked Bixiou, seeing no one at 
the desk. 

^ Monsieur is correcting proofs in his private office,' 
said the assistant. 

^ What do you think of that, hey ? ' said Leon, 
turning to his cousin. Then to the assistant, ^ Can we 
speak to him without disturbing his inspirations ? ' 

^ Let the gentlemen come in,' called a voice — a bour- 
geois voice, a voice to inspire confidence in voters, a 

The Unconscious Mummers 17 

powerful voice, suggestive of a good steady income, and 
Vital vouchsafed to show himself. He was dressed in 
black from head to foot, and carried a diamond pin in 
his resplendent shirt-frill. Beyond him the three friends 
caught a glimpse of a young and pretty woman sitting 
at a desk with a piece of embroidery in her hands. 

Vital was between thirty and forty years of age ; 
native joviality had been repressed in him by ambi- 
tions. It is the privilege of a fine organisation to be 
neither tall nor short, and Vital enjoyed that advantage. 
He was tolerably stout, and careful of his appearance ; 
and if the hair had grown rather thin on his forehead, he 
turned the partial baldness to account, to give himself 
the airs of a man consumed by thought. You could see 
by the way that his wife looked at him that she admired 
her husband for a great man and a genius. Vital loved 
artists. Not that he had himself any taste for the arts, 
but he felt that he was one of the confraternity ; he 
believed that he was an artist, and brought the fact home 
to you by sedulously disclaiming all right to that noble 
title, and constantly relegating himself to an enormous 
distance from the arts to draw out the remark, ^ Why, 
you have raised the manufacture of hats to the dignity 
of a science.' 

^ Have you found the hat for me at last ? ' inquired 
Leon de Lora. 

* What, sir, in one fortnight ! A hat for you ! ' 
remonstrated Vital. * Why, two months will scarcely 
be long enough to strike out a shape to suit you ! 
Look, here is your lithograph, there it lies. I have 
studied you very carefully already. I would not take so 
much trouble for a prince, but you are something more, 
you are an artist. And you understand me, my dear 

^ Here is one of our great inventors ; he would be as 
great a man as Jacquart if he would but consent to die 
for a bit,' said Bixiou, introducing Gazonal. ^Our 


i8 The Unconscious Mummers 

friend here is a cloth weaver, the inventor of a way of 
restoring the indigo colour in old clothes ; he wanted to 
sec you as a great phenomenon, for it was you who said, 
*^ The hat is the man." It sent this gentleman into 
ecstasies. Ah ! Vital, you have &ith ! You believe in 
something ; you have a passion for your work ! ' 

Vital scarcely heard the words, his face had grown 
pale with joy. 

^ Rise, wife. This gentleman is one of the princes of 
science ! ' 

Mme. Vital rose at a sign from her husband ; Gazonal 

' Shall I have the honour of finding a hat for you ? * 
continued Vital, radiant and officious. 

* At my price,' said Bixiou. 

^ Quite so. I ask nothing but the pleasure of an 
occasional mention from you, gentlemen. Monsieur 
must have a picturesque hat, something in M. Lousteau's 
style,' he continued, looking at Bixiou with the air of 
one laying down the law. ^I will think of a shape.' 

^ You take a great deal of trouble,' said Gazonal. 

* Oh ! only for a few persons ; only for those who 
can appreciate the value of the pains that I take. Why, 
among the aristocracy there is but one man who really 
understands a hat — the Prince de Bethune. How is it 
that men do not see, as women do, that the hat is the 
first thing to strike the eye ? Why do they not think 
of changing the present state of things, which is dis- 
graceful, it must be said. But a Frenchman, of all people, 
is the most persistent in his folly. I quite know the 
difficulties, gentlemen ! I am not speaking now of my 
writings on a subject which I believe I have approached 
in a philosophical spirit ; but simply as a practical hatter 
I have discovered the means of individualising the 
hideous headgear which Frenchmen are privileged to 
wear until I can succeed in abolishing it altogether.' 

He held up an example of the hideous modern hat. 

The Unconscious Mummers 19 

^ Behold the enemy, gentlemen. To think that the 
most intelligent nation under the sun should consent to 
put this " stove-pipe " (as one of our own writers has said), 
this "stove-pipe" upon their heads! . . . Here you 
see the various curves which I have introduced into 
those dreadful lines,' he added, pointing out one of his 
own ^ creations/ ^ Yet, although I understand how to 
suit the hat to the wearer — as you see, for here is a 
doctor's hat, this is for a tradesman, and that for a dandy 
or an artist, a scout man, a thin man — still, the hat in itself 
is always hideous. There ! do you fully grasp my whole 
idea ? ' 

He took up a broad-brimmed hat with a low crown. 

^ This is an old hat belonging to Claude Vignon, the 
great critic, independent writer, and free liver. ... He 
has gone to the support of the ministry, he is a professor 
and librarian, he only writes for the Debats now, he has 
gained the post of Master of Requests. He has an 
income of sixteen thousand francs, he makes four thou- 
sand francs by his journalistic work, he wears a ribbon at 
his buttonhole. — Well, here is his new hat.' 

Vital exhibited a head covering, the juste milieu 
visible in every line. 

^You ought to have made him a harlequin's hat,' 
exclaimed C^zonal. 

^Your genius rises over other people's heads, M. 
Vital,' said Leon. 

Vital bowed, unsuspicious of the joke. 

^Can you tell me why your shops are the last of all to 
close here in Paris ? They are open even later than the 
cafes and drinking bars. It really tickles my curiosity,' 
said Gazonal. 

^In the first place, our windows look their best when 
lighted up at night ; and for one hat that we sell in the 
daytime, we sell five at night.' 

^Everything is queer in Paris,' put in Leon. 

^ Well^ in spite of my efforts and my success' (Vital 

20 The Unconscious Mummers 

pursued his panegirric), ^we must come to the round 
crown. I am working in that direction/ 

^ What hinders you r ' asked Gazonal. 

^Cheapness, sir. You start with a stock of fine silk 
hats at fifteen francs — the price would kill the trade; 
Parisians never have fifteen francs of ready money to 
invest in a new hat. A beaver costs thirty francs, but the 
problem is the same as ever. Beaver, I say, though there 
are not ten pounds' weight of real beaver skins bought 
in France in a year. The article is worth three hundred 
and fifty francs per pound, and an ounce is needed for a 
hat. And besides, the beaver hat is not good for much, 
the skin dyes badly ; it turns rusty in the sunshine in 
ten minutes, it subsides at once in the heat. What we 
call " beaver " is really nothing but hare-skin ; the best 
hats are made from the backs, the second quality from 
the sides, and the third from the bellies. I am telling 
you trade secrets, you are men of honour. But 
whether you carry beaver or hare-skin on your head, the 
problem is equally insoluble — how to find fifteen or 
thirty francs of ready money. A man must pay cash 
for his hat — you behold the consequences ! The honour 
of the garb of Gaul will be saved when a round grey hat 
shall cost a hundred francs. When that day comes we 
shall give credit, like the tailors. To that end people 
must be persuaded to wear the buckle, the gold galoon, 
the plumes, and satin-lined brims of the times of 
Louis XIII. and Louis xiv. Our business would expand 
ten times over if we went into the fancy line. France 
would be the hat-mart of the world, just as Paris always 
sets the fashion in women's dress. The present hat 
may be made anywhere. Ten million francs of export 
trade to be secured for Paris is involved in the ques- 
tion ' 

^ A revolution ! ' cried Bixiou, working up enthusiasm. 

^Yes, a radical revolution. The form must be 

The Unconscious Mummers 21 

'You are happy after Luther's fashion/ said Leon, 
always on the lookout for a pun. ' You are dreaming 
of a reformation.' 

* Yes, sir. Ah ! if the twelve or fifteen artists, 
capitalists, or dandies that set the fashion would but 
have courage for twenty-four hours, there would be a 
great commercial victory won for France. See here ! 
as I tell my wife, I would give my fortune to succeed. 
Yes, it is my one ambition to regenerate the hat — and 
to disappear.' 

^ The man is stupendous,' remarked Gazonal, when 
they had left the shop, ^ but all your eccentrics have a 
touch of the South about them, I do assure you ' 

' Let us go along the Rue Saint- Marc,' said Bixiou. 

* Are we to see something else ? ' 

* Yes, you are going to see a money-lender — a money- 
lender among the ^^rats" and marcheuses. A woman 
that has more hideous secrets in her keeping than gowns 
in her shop window,' said Bixiou. 

He pointed as he spoke to a dirty-looking shop like a 
blot on the dazzling expanse of modern street. It had 
last been painted somewhere about the year 1820, a 
subsequent bankruptcy must have left it in a dubious 
condition on the owner's hands, and now the colour was 
obscured by a thick coating of grime and dust. The 
windows were filthy, the doorhandle had that significant 
trick of turning of its own accord, characteristic of every 
place which people enter in a hurry, only to leave more 
promptly still. 

* What do you say to this ? Death's cousin-german, 
is she not ? ' Leon muttered in Gazonal's ear, pointing 
out a terrific figure behind the counter. ^She is Mme. 

^ How much for the guipure, madame ? ' asked 
Gazonal, not to be behindhand. 

*To you, monsieur, only a hundred crowns, as you 
come from so far.' Then remarking a certain Southern 

11 The Uficontdoai MttmiMfi 

fUft (f( §uf pri§€^ ibe ftddcdi with « touch of ptlboi {fi bfr 
voice, ^ It Dcloftged to the PriiiceHe de Liimbelli^ i^oor 

^Whitf here! right under the Tuilerieff^ eifed 

* JMonw'euf, ** they *' don't believe it/ *«id *be. 

^ We did not amtc here n% buyen^^ fflftdame/ Hixiou 
be^^n valiantly. 

*&o 1 M^, mon^eur/ retorted Mme. NourriMon. 

^We have several thing* to ik;I1/ continued the 
illuMriou» caricaturist. M live at number if 2 Rue de 
Richelieu, *ixth fl/;or« If you like to look in, in n 
moment, you may pick up a famouii bargai n ^ 

* Herhapft monsieur would like a bit of mu*lin | it i* 
verr much worn ju»t now t * smiled she. 

* No. It is a matter of a wedding-dress,* Lton de 
Lora said with much j^nifhy, 

Vifiten minutes biter, Mme. Nourrisson actually 
appeared at Bixi/9U% rooms, tjion and OaMmal had 
come home with him to see the end of the jest, and 
Mme. Nourrisson found the trio looking as sober as 
three auth/jrrs whose work (written in collaboration) has 
not met with that success which it deserved. 

Bixiou unblushinglv produced a pair of ladyV slippers. 
* These, ma/lame, belonged to the Fympress Josephine,* 
said he, giving Mme. Nourrisson, as in duty bound, tm 
small change lor her Hrincesse de J/amballe. 

* 'fhaif . . .' cried she. *Whv, it was new this 
year ^ look at the mark on the s<ile.^ 

^Can you not guess that the pair of slippers is a 
prelude to the romance,* said L^on ^ * and not^ as usual, 
the sequel.* 

'My friend here from the South,* put in Hiaiou, 
' wishes to marry a certain young lady, yery welUto-do 
and well connected ^ but he would like to know before- 
hand (huge family interests being at stake) whether 

^huge family interests being at 
has been any slip in the past.^ 

The Unconscious Mummers 23 

* How much is monsieur willing to pay ? ' she asked, 
eyeing the prospective bridegroom, 

^ A hundred francs/ said Gazonal, no longer astonished 
at anything. 

^Many thanks/ said she, with a grimace which a 
monkey might despairingly envy. 

*Come, now, how much do you want, Mme. 
Nourrisson ? ' asked Bixiou, putting his arm round her 

* First of all, my dear gentlemen, never since I have 
been in business have I seen any one, man or woman, 
beating down the price of happiness. And, in the 
second place, you are all three of you chaffing me,' she 
added, and a smile that stole over her hard lips was 
reinforced by a gleam of cat-like suspicion in her eyes. 
*Now, if your happiness is not involved, your fortune is 
at stake, and a man that lives up so many pair of stairs is 
still less the person to haggle over a rich match. — 
Come, now, what is it aU about, my lambs ? ' with 
sudden affability. 

^ We want to know about the firm of Beimier and 
Company,' said Bixiou, very well pleased to pick up 
some information concerning a person in whom he was 

* Oh ! a louis will be enough for that * 


^ I have aU the mother's jewels. She is hard up from 
one quarter to another; why, it is all she can do to pay 
interest on the money she owes me. Are you looking 
for a wife in that quarter ? You noodle ! Hand me 
over forty francs, and I will give you a good hundred 
crowns' worth of gossip.' 

Gazonal brought a forty-franc piece to light, and 
Mme. Nourrisson gave them some startling stories of 
the straits to which some so-called ladies are reduced. 
The old wardrobe-dealer grew lively as she talked, 
sketching her own portrait in the course of the conver- 

24 The Unconscious Mummers 

sation. Without betraying a single confidence, with- 
out letting fall a single name, she made her audience 
shudder by allowing them to see how much prosperity in 
Paris is based on the quaking foundation of borrowed 
money. In her drawers she had keepsakes set in gold 
and brilliants, memorials of grandmothers long dead and 
gone, of children still in life, of husbands or grand- 
children laid in the grave. She had heard ghastly 
stories wrung from anger, passion, or pique, told, it may 
be, by one customer of another, or drawn from borrowers 
in the necessary course of sedative treatment which ends 
in a loan. 

^Why did you enter this line of business?' asked 

^ For my son's sake,' she replied simply. 

Women that go up and down back stairs to ply their 
trade in are always brimful of excuses based on the best 
of motives. Mme. Nourrisson, by her own account, had 
lost three matches, three daughters that turned out very 
badly, and all her illusions to ooot. She produced pawn- 
tickets for some of her best goods, she said, just to show 
the risks of the trade. How she should meet the end 
of the month, she did not know ; people ^ robbed ' her 
to such a degree. 

The word was a little too strong. The artists 
exchanged glances. 

^ Look here, bovs, I will just show you how we get 
taken in. This did not happen to me, but to my neigh- 
bour over the way, Mme. Mahuchet,a ladies' shoemaker. 
I had been lending money to a Countess, a woman with 
more crazes than she can afford. She swaggers it with 
a fine house and grand furniture; she has At Homes, 
she makes a deuce of a dash. 

^ Well, she owed her shoemaker three hundred francs, 
and was giving a dinner and a party no further back than 
the day before yesterday. Mme. Mahuchet, hearing of 
this from the cook, came to me about it, and we got 

The Unconscious Mummers 25 

excited over the news. She was for making a fuss, but 
for my own part — ** My dear Mother Mahuchct," I said, 
'^ where is the use of it ? Just to get a bad name ; it is 
better to get good security. It is diamond cut diamond, 
and you save your bile." — But go she would ; she asked 
me to back her up, and we went together, — ** Madame 
is not at home." — " Go on ! " said Mother Mahuchet. 
** We will wait for her if I stop here till midnight ! " — 
So we camped down in the antechamber and chatted 
together. Well, doors opened and shut; by and by 
there was a sound of little footsteps and low voices ; and, 
for my own part, I felt sorry. The company was 
coming to dinner. You can judge of the turn things 

* The Countess sent in her own woman to wheedle 
la Mahuchet — *^You shall be paid to-morrow" — and 
all the rest of the ways of trying it on. — No go. — Then 
the Countess, in her Sunday best, as you may say, 
comes into the dining-room. La Mahuchet hears her, 
flings open the door, and walks in. Lord ! at the sight 
of the dinner-table, all sparkling like a jewel-case, the 
dish-covers and the plate and the candle-sconces, she 
went oiF like a soda-water bottle. She flings out her 
bomb — ** Those that spend other people's money have 
no business to give dinner-parties; they ought to live 
quietly. You a Countess ! and you owe a hundred 
crowns to a poor shoemaker's wife with seven children !" 
— You can imagine how she ran on, an uneducated 
woman as she is. At the first word of excuse — *^ No 
money" — from the Countess, la Mahuchet cries out, 
" Eh ! my lady, but there is silver-plate here ! Pawn 
your spoons and forks and pay me ! " — " Take them 
yourself," says the Countess, catching up half-a-dozen 
and slipping them into her hand, and we hurried away 
downstairs pellmell. — What a success ! Bah ! no. 
Out in the street tears came into la Mahuchet's eyes, 
she is a good soul; she took the things back, and 

26 The Unconscious Mummers 

apologised. She found out the depths of the Countess's 
poverty — they were German silver ! ' 

^Dishcovered that she had no cover/ commented 
Leon de Lora, in whom the Mistigris of old was apt to 


The pun flashed a sudden light across Mme. Nourris- 
son's brain. ^ Aha ! my dear sir, you are an artist, a 
dramatic writer, you live in the Rue du Helder, you 
have kept company with Madame Antonia, I know a 
few of your little ways ! . • • Come, now, do you want 
something out of the common in the grand style. 
Carabine or Mousqueton,. for instance, or Malaga or 
Jenny Cadine ? ' 

' Malaga and Carabine, forsooth ! when we have made 
them what they are ! ' cried Leon. 

' My dear Mme. Nourrisson, I solemnly swear to you 
that we wanted nothing but the pleasure of making your 
acquaintance ; and as we wish to hear about your ante- 
cedents, we should like to know how you came to drop 
into your way of business,' said Bixiou. 

^ I was a confidential servant in the household of a 
Marshal of France,' she said, posing like a Dorine ; ^he 
was the Prince d'Ysembourg. One morning one of the 
finest ladies at the Emperor's court came to speak 
privately with the Marshal. I took care at once to be 
within hearing. Well, my Countess bursts into tears, 
and tells that simpleton of a Marshal (the Prince 
d'Ysembourg, the Conde of the Republic, and a simple- 
ton to boot), she tells him that her husband was away at 
the wars in Spain, and had left her without a single note 
for a thousand francs, and that unless she can have one 
or two at once, her children must starve, she had literally 
nothing for to-morrow. Well, my Marshal, being 
tolerably free-handed in those days, takes a couple of 
thousand-franc notes out of his desk. — I watched the fair 
Countess down the stairs. She did not see me; she was 
laughing to herself with not altogether motherly glee. 

The Unconscious Mummers 27 

so I slipped out and heard her tell the chasseur in a low 
voice to drive to Leroy*8, I rushed round. My mother 
of a family goes to the famous shop in the Rue de 
Richelieu — ^you know the place — and orders and pays for 
a dress that cost fifteen hundred francs. You used to 
pay for one dress by ordering another then. Two 
nights afterwards she could appear at an ambassador's 
ball, decked out as a woman must be when she wishes 
to shine for all the world and for one besides. That very 
day said I to myself, ^^ Here is an opening for me ! 
When I am no longer young, I will lend money to fine 
ladies on their things ; passion cannot reckon, and pays 
blindly." If it is a subject for a comedy that you want, 
I will let you have some for a consideration ' 

And making an end of a harangue, coloured by all the 
phases of her past life, she departed, leaving Gazonal in 
dismay, caused partly by the matter of her discourse, but 
at least as much by an exhibition of five yellow teeth 
which she meant for a smile. 

* What are we to do next ? * he inquired. 

^Find some banknotes,' said Bixiou, whistling for his 
porter; ^I want nioney, and I am going to teach you 
the uses of a porter, i ou imagine that they are meant 
to open doors ; whereas their real use is to help vagrants 
like me out of difficulties, and to assist the artists 
whom they take under their protection, for which 
reason mine will take the Montyon prize some of these 

The common expression, *eyes like saucers,* found 
sufficient illustration in GazonaPs countenance at that 

The man that suddenly appeared in the doorway was 
of no particular age, a something between a private 
detective and a merchant's clerk, but more unctuous and 
sleeker than either; his hair was greasy, his person 
paunchy, his complexion of the moist and unwholesome 
kind that you observe in the superiors of convents. 

28 The UficoMcioat Mumtneri 

He wore » Utie clodi jacket^ drib trotuer^ uid li§t 

^what do you want^ fir?^ inquired tbif peffomge^ 
with a bai^^wtrofiifingy baif-fervtle mafincr, 

^ Oh, Ravefioufllet--(his name if RavenottiUet^' aaid 
Bfxkni, turning to Gaxonal) — ^have you your ^billi 
receivable** zhtmtvout* 

Ravenouiilet felt in a tide^pocket^ and produced tbe 
•ticlcieit bor^k that Cia/zonal had ever neen in bit life# 

^ Juftt enter a note of these two bilk for five hundred 
francs at three months^ and put your name to them 
for me/ 

Bixiou brought out a couple of notes made payable to 
his order as be spoke* Ravenouiilet accepted them 
forthwith, and noted them down on the greasy page 
among his wife's entricf of various sums due from otner 


^Thankst Ravenouiilet* Stay, here is an order for 
the Vaudeville/ 

^ Ah, my child will enjoy herself ^ery much to-night/ 
said Ravenouiilet) as he went away* 

^^rhere are seventy^one of us in the house/ said 
Dixiou, ^ among us, on an average, we owe Ravenouiilet 
six thousand francs per month, eighteen thousand francs 
per quarter for advances and postafl;e, to say nothine of 
rent* He is our Providence—at thirty per cent* We 
pay him that without beinfl: so much as asked/ 

^ Oh, Paris ( Paris ( * exclaimed Cjazonal 

K)n the wav,* said Bixiou, filling in his signature 
^(fr>r I am going to show you another actor, Cousin 
Ga/z^inal, and a charming scene he shall play, gratify 
for you) * 

* Where f * C/azonal broke in* 

^ In a money'lender's office* On the way, I repeat, I 
will tell you mm friend Ravenouiilet started in Paris/ 

As they paMcd the door of the lodge, Ga»>nal beard 
Mile, f/ucienne Ravenouiilet, a student at the Conserva-^ 

The Unconscious Mummers 29 

toire, practising her scales, her &ther was reading the 
newspaper, and Mme. Ravenouillet came out with letters 
in her hand for the lodgers above. 

^ Thank you, M. Bixiou,' called the little one. 

* That is not a ** rat," ' said Leon ; ^ it is a grasshopper 
in the larva state.' 

^ It seems that here, as all the world over, you win the 
favour of those in oiEce by good oiEces,' began Gazonal. 
Leon was charmed with the pun. 

* He is coming on in our society ! * he cried. 

* Now for Ravenouillet's history,' said Bixiou, when 
the three stood outside on the boulevard. 'In 1831, 
Massol (your chairman of committee, Gazonal) was a 
journalist barrister. At that time he merely intended to 
be Keeper of the Seals some day ; he scorned to oust 
Louis-Philippe from the throne: pardon his ambition, 
he comes from Carcassonne. One fine morning a 
young fellow-countryman turned up. — ^^Monsu Massol," 
he said, ** you know me very well, my father is your 
neighbour the grocer; I have just come from down 
yonder, for they tell us that every one who comes here 
gets a place." At those words a cold shiver ran through 
Massol. He thought within himself that if he were so 
ill advised as to oblige a compatriot, who for that 
matter was a perfect stranger, he should have the whole 
department tumbling in upon him. He thought of 
the wear and tear to bell-pulls, door hinges, and carpets, 
he saw his only servant giving notice, he had visions of 
trouble with his landlord, of complaints from the other 
tenants of the combined odours of garlic and diligence 
introduced into the house. So he fixed upon his peti- 
tioner such an eye as a butcher turns upon a sheep 
brought into the shambles. In vain. His fellow country- 
man survived that gaze, or rather that stab, and continued 
his discourse much on this wise, according to MassoPs 
report of it : — 

^ ^.^ I have my ambitions, like every one else," said he ; 

30 The Unconscious Mummers 

^' I shall not go back again until I am rich, if indeed I 
go back at all, for Paris is the ante-chamber of Paradise. 
Thev tell me that you write for the newspapers, and do 
anything you like with people here, and that for vou it 
is ask and have with the Government. I have abilities, 
like all of us down yonder, but I know myself: I have no 
education; I cannot write (which is a pity, for 
I have ideas) ; so I do not think of comine into 
competition with you; I know myself; I should not 
make anything out. But since you can do anything, 
and we are brothers, as you may say, having played 
together as children, I count upon you to give me a 
start in life, and to use your influence for me. — Oh, you 
must. I want a place, the kind of place to suit my 
talents, a place that I, being I, am fitted to fill with a 
chance Of making my fortune " 

^ Massol was just on the point of brutally thrusting his 
fellow-countryman out at the door with a rough word in 
his ear, when the said countryman concluded thus : — 

' ^^ So I do not ask for a place in the civil service, where 
a man gets on as slowly as a tortoise, for there is your 
cousin that has been a tax-collector these twenty years, 
and is a tax-collector still — no ; I simply thought of 

going ? " — " On the stage ? " put in Massol, greatlv 

relieved by the turn things were taking. — '^ No. It is 
true, I have the figure for it, and the memory, and the 
gesticulation ; but it takes too much out of you. I 
should prefer the career of a — porter.'' Massol kept his 
countenance — "It will take far more out of you," he 
said, "but you are not so likely, at any rate, to perform 
to an empty house." — So he found Ravenouillet's ** first- 
door-string " for him, as he says.' 

^I was the first to take an interest in porters as a 
class,' said Leon. ^Your moral humbugs, your char- 
latans from vanity, vour latter-day sycophants, your 
Septembrists disguised in trappings of decorous solem- 
nity, your discoverers of problems palpitating with 

The Unconscious Mummers 31 

present importance, are all preaching the emancipation 
of the negro, the improvement of the juvenile offender, 
and philanthropic efforts on behalf of the ticket-of- 
leave man ; while they leave their porters in a worse 
plight than the Irish, living in dens more loathsome 
than dark cells, upon a scantier pittance than the 
Government grant per head for convicts. I have done 
but one good deed in my life, and that is my porter's 

^ Yes,' said Bixiou. ^Suppose that a man has built a 
set of huge cages, divided up like a beehive or a 
menagerie, into hundreds of cells or dens, in which 
living creatures of every species are intended to ply their 
various industries ; suppose that this animal, with the 
face of an owner of house-property, should come to a 
man of science and say — ^^ Sir, I want a specimen of the 
order Bimana^ which shall live in a sink ten feet square, 
filled with old boots and plague-stricken rags. I want 
him to live in it all his life, and rear a family of children 
as pretty as cherubs ; he must use it as a workshop, 
kitchen, and promenade ; he must sing and grow flowers 
in it, and never go out ; he must shut his eyes, and yet 
see everything that goes on in the house." — Assuredly 
the man of science could not invent the Porter ; Paris 
alone, or the Devil if you like to have it so, was equal 
to the feat.' 

' Parisian industrialism has gone even further into the 
regions of the Impossible,' added Gazonal. ^You in 
Paris exhibit all kinds of manu&ctures ; but there are 
by-products of which you know nothing. . . .There are 
your working classes. — They bear the brunt of compe- 
tition with foreign industries, hardship against hardship, 
just as the regiments bore the brunt of Napoleon's duel 
with Europe. 

* Here we are. This is where our friend Vauvinet 
lives,' said Bixiou. ^People who paint contemporary 
manners are too apt to copy old portraits ; it is one of 

32 The Unconscious Mummers 

their greatest mistakes. In our own times every calling 
has been transformed. Tradesmen are peers of France, 
artists are capitalists, writers of vaudevilles have money 
in the funds. Some few figures remain as before ; but, 
generally speaking, most professions have dropped their 
manners and customs along with their distinctive dress. 
Gobseck, Gigonnet, Chaboisseau,and Samanon were the 
last of the Romans ; to-day we rejoice in the possession 
of our Vauvinet, the good fellow, the dandy-denizen of 
the greenroom, the frequenter of the society of loretteSy 
the owner of a neat little one-horse brougham. Watch 
my man carefully, friend Ga2x>nal, and you shall see a 
comedy of money. First, the cool, indifferent man that 
will not ^ive a penny ; and second, the hot and eager 
man smelling a profit. Of all things, listen to him.' 

With that, the three mounted to a second-floor 
lodging in a very fine house on the Boulevard des 
Italiens, and at once found themselves amid elegant sur- 
roundings in the height of the feshion. A young man 
of eight-and-twenty, or thereabouts, came forward 
almost laughingly at sight of Leon de Lora, held out a 
hand to all appearance in the friendliest possible way to 
Bixiou, gave Gazonal a distant bow, and brought the 
three into his private office. All the man's bourgeois 
tastes lurked beneath the artistic decorations of the room 
in spite of the unimpeachable statuettes and number- 
less trifles appropriated to the uses of petit s appartements 
by modern art, grown petty to supply the demand. 
Like most young men of business, Vauvinet was ex- 
tremely carefully dressed, a man's clothes being as it 
were a kind of prospectus among them. 

^I have come to you for money,' said Bixiou, laughing 
as he held out his bills. 

Vauvinet's countenance immediately grew so grave 
that Gazonal was amused at the difference between the 
smiles of a minute ago and the professional bill-discount- 
ing visage he turned on Bixiou. 

The Unconscious Mummers 33 

' I would oblige you with the greatest pleasure, my 
dear fellow/ said he, ^but I have no cash at the 

' Oh, pshaw ! ' 

* No. I have paid it all away, you know where. Poor 
old Lousteau is going to run a theatre. He has gone 
into partnership with an ancient playwright that stands 
very well with the ministry — Ridal, his name is — they 
wanted thirty thousand francs of me yesterday. I am 
drained dry, so dry indeed that I am just about to borrow 
a hundred louis of Cerizet to pay for my losses this 
morning at lansquenet, at Jenny Cadine's.' 

'You must be drained dry indeed if you cannot 
oblige poor Bixiou,' put in Leon de Lora, ^ for he can 
say very nasty things when he is driven to it ' 

* I can only speak well of a man so well off,' said Bixiou. 
*My dear fellow, even if I had the money, it would 

be quite impossible to discount bills accepted by your 
porter, even at fifty per cent. There is no demand for 
Ravenouillet's paper. He is not exactly Rothschild. I 
warn you that this sort of thing is played out. You 
ought to try another firm. Look up an uncle, for the 
friend that will back your bills is extinct, materialism 

is so firightfuUy on the increase ' 

Bixiou turned to Gazonal. 

* I have a friend here,' he said, ' one of the best known 
cloth manufacturers in the South. His name is Ga- 
zonal. His hair wants cutting,' continued Bixiou, 
surveying the provincial's luxuriant and somewhat dis- 
hevelled crop, * but I am just about to take him to 
Marius, and his resemblance to a poodle, so deleterious to 
his credit and ours, will presently disappear.' 

* A Southern name is not good enough for me, without 
offence to this gentleman be it said,' returned Vauvinet, 
and Gazonal was so much relieved that he passed over 
the insolence of the remark. Being extremely acute, 
he thought that Bixiou and the painter meant to 


34 The Unconscious Mummers 

make him pay a thousand francs for the breakfast at the 
Cafe de Paris by way of teaching him to know the town. 
He had not yet got rid of the suspicion in which the 
provincial always intrenches himself. 

* How should I do business in the Pyrenees, six hun- 
dred miles away? * added Vauvinct. 

^So there is no more to be said ? ' returned Bixiou. 

^ I have twenty francs at home.' 

^ I am sorry for you,' said the author*^ of the hoax. 
^ I thought I was worth a thousand francs/ he added 

^ You are worth a hundred thousand francs,' Vauvinet 
rejoined ; 'sometimes you are even beyond all price — but 
I am drained dry.' 

'Oh, well, we will say no more about it. I had 
contrived as good a bit of business as you could wish at 
Carabine's to-night — do you know ? ' 

Vauvinet's answer was a wink. So does one dealer in 
horse-flesh convey to another the information that he is 
not to be deceived. 

' You have forgotten how you took me by the waist, 
exactly as if I were a pretty woman, and said with 
coaxing words and looks, ^' I will do anything for you, 
if only you will get me shares at par in this railway 
that du Tillet and Nucingen are bringing out," said 
you. Very well, my dear fellow, Maxime and Nucingen 
are coming to-night to meet several political folk at 
Carabine's. You are losing a fine chance, old man. 
Come. Good- day, dabbler.' 

And Bixiou rose to go, leaving Vauvinet to all appear- 
ance indifferent, but in reality as vexed as a man can 
be with himself after a blunder of his own making. 

* One moment, my dear fellow. I have credit if I 
have no cash. If I can get nothing for your bills, I can 
keep them till they fall due, and give you other bills 
in exchange from my portfolio. After all, we might 
possibly come to an understanding about those railway 

The Unconscious Mummers 35 

shares; we could divide the profits in a certain pro- 
portion, and I would give you a draft on m3rself on 
account of the prof * 

*No, no,* returned Bixiou, 'I must have money; I 
must cash my Ravenouillet elsewhere * 

' And Ravenouillet is a good man/ resumed Vauvinet ; 
^ he has an account at the savings bank ; a very good 
man ' 

* Better than you are,* said Leon ; * he has no rent to 
pay, he does not squander his money on lorettes^ nor does 
he rush into speculation and shake in his shoes with 
every rise and fall.' 

^You are pleased to laugh, great man. You have 
given us the quintessence of La Fontaine's fable of the 
Oak and the Keed^ said Vauvinet, grown jovial and in- 
sinuating all at once. — ^ Come, Gubetta, my old fellow 
conspirator,' he continued, taking Bixiou by the waist, 
* you want money, do you ? Very well, I may just as 
well borrow three as two thousand francs of my friend 
Cerizet. And ^^ Cinna, let us be friends ! " • • • Hand 
us over those two leaves that grow from the root of all 
evil. If I refused at first, it was because it is very hard 
on a man that can only do his bit of business by passing 
on bills to the Bank to make him keep your Rave- 
nouillets locked up in the drawer of his desk. It is 
hard; very hard ' 

* What discount ? ' 

* Next to nothing,' said Vauvinet. * At three months 
it will cost you a miserable fifty francs.' 

^ You shall be my benefactor, as Emile Blondet used to 

'It is borrowing money at twenty per cent, per 

annum, interest included * Gazonal began in a 

whisper, but for all answer he received a blow firom 
Bixiou's elbow directed at his windpipe. 

' I say,' said Vauvinet, opening a drawer, * I perceive 
an odd note for five hundred francs sticking to the 

^6 The Unconscious Mummers 

cloth. I did not know I was so rich. I was looking for 
a Dill to offer you. I have one almost due for four hundred 
and fifty. Cerizet will take it off you for a trifle ; and 
that makes up the amount. But no tricks, Bixiou. 
I am goine to Carabine's to-night, eh ? Will you 

swear ? 

* Are we not friends again ? ' asked Bixiou, taking the 
banknote and the bill. * I give you my word of honour 
that you shall meet du Tillet to-night and plenty of 
others that have a mind to make their (rail)way.' 

Vauvinet came out upon the landing with the three 
friends, cajoling Bixiou to the last. 

Bixiou listened with much seriousness while Gazonal 
on the way downstairs tried to open his eyes to the 
nature of the transaction just completed. Gazonal 
proved to him that if Cerizet, this crony of Vauvinet's, 
cSarged no more than twenty francs for discounting a 
>«:i4 Iv^r four hundred and fifty francs, then he (Bixiou) 
was borrowing money at the rate of forty per cent, per 


Out upon the pavement Bixiou burst into a laugh, 
tt^ laugh of a Parisian over a successful hoax, a sound- 
>(s;^ joyless chuckle, a labial north-easter which froze 
V^itonal into silence. 

* The grant of the concession to the railway will be 
M«t|vned at the Chamber,' he said; ^we knew that 
x^ltrday from the marcheuse whom we met just now. 
X«iJ if t win five or six thousand francs at lansquenet, 
^tM^t \% a loss of sixty or seventy francs so long as you 
IU^« something to stake ? ' 

^ l.«nsquenet is another of the thousand facets of Paris 
Ul^ txMlay,' said Leon. * Wherefore, cousin, count upon 
vHA« iiUriMlucing you to one of the duchesses of the Rue 
s^^ul Cicorges. In her house you see the aristocracy of 
tiiHVUr«i und may perhaps gain your lawsuit. But you 
v«^ii«iot possibly show yourself with that Pyrenean crop, 
\v^ KH)k like a hedgehog \ we will take you to Marius, 

The Unconscious Mummers 37 

close by in the Place de la Bourse. He is another of 

our mummers/ 

* What is the new mummer ? ' 

^ Here comes the anecdote/ said Bixiou. ^ In 1800 a 
young wigmaker named Cabot came from Toulouse, 
and set up shop (to use your jargon) in Paris. This 
genius — he retired afterwards with an income of twenty 
thousand francs to Libourne — this genius, consumed with 
ambition, saw that the name of Cabot could never be 
famous. M. Parny, whom he attended professionally, 
called him Marius, a name infinitely superior to the 
"Armands" and "Hippolytes" beneath which other 
victims of that hereditary complaint endeavour to con- 
ceal the patronymic. All Cabot's successors have been 
named Marius. The present Marius is Marius v. ; his 
family name is Mougin. This is the way with many 
trades, with Eau de Botot for example, and La Petite- 
Vertu*s ink. In Paris a man's name becomes a part of 
the business, and at length confers a certain status ; the 
signboard ennobles. Marius left pupils behind him, too, 
and created (it is said) the first school of hair-dressing 
in the world.' 

* I noticed before this as I travelled across France a 
great many names upon signboards — So-and-so, from 

'All his pupils are bound to wash their hands after 
each customer,' continued Bixiou ; ' and Marius will 
not take every one, a pupil must have a shapely hand 
and tolerable good looks. The most remarkable of these, 
for figure or eloquence, are sent out to people's houses ; 
Marius only puts himself about for titled ladies. He 
has a cab and a "groom."' 

* But, after all, he is only a barber {merlan)^ Gazonal 
cried indignantly. 

* A barber!' repeated Bixiou. You must know that 
he is a captain in the National Guard, and wears the Cross 
because he was the first to leap a barricade in 1832.' 

38 The Unconscious Mummers 

* Be ctrefuL He is neither a hairdresser nor a wig- 
maker i he is the manager of salons de coiffure^ said Leon 
on the sumptuously carpeted staircase between the 
mahogany hand-rails and cut-glass balusters. 

* And, look here, do not disgrace us,' added Bixiou. 
*The lackeys in the ante-chamber will take off your 
coat and hat to brush them, open the door of the salon 
and close it after you. Which is worth knowing, my 
friend Gazonal,' Bixiou continued slyly, ^ or you might 
cry "Thieves!"' 

* The three salons are three boudoirs,' said Leon ; ^ the 
manager has filled them with all that modern luxury 
can devise. There are fringed lambrequins over the 
windows, flower-stands everywhere, and silken couches, 
on which you await your turn and read the newspapers 
if all the dressing-rooms are occupied. As you come in, 
you begin to finger your waistcoat pockets, and imagine 
that they will charge you five francs at least; but 
no pocket is mulcted of more than half a franc if the 
hair is curled, or a firanc if the hairdresser cuts it. 
Elegant toilet-tables stand among the flowers, there are 
jets of water playing, you see yourself reflected every- 
where in huge mirrors. So try to look as if you were 
used to it. When the client comes in (Marius uses the 
degant term ^^ client" instead of the common word 
^ customer "), when the client appears on the threshold, 
Marius appraises him at a glance ; for him you are '^ a 
head" more or less worthy of his interest. From 
Marius's point of view, there are no men — only heads.' 

* We will tune Marius to concert-pitch for you,' said 
Bixiou, ^ if you will follow our lead.' 

When Ga2x>nal appeared upon the scenes, Marius at 
once gave him an approving glance. ^ Regulus ! ' cried 
he, ^ take this head. Clip with the small shears first 
of all.' 

At a sign from Bixiou, Gazonal turned to the pupiL 
* Pardon me,' he said, ^ I wish to have M. Marius him- 

The Unconscious Mummers 39 

Greatly flattered by this speech, Marius came forward, 
leaving the head on which he was engaged. 

^ I am at your service, I am just at an end. Be quite 
easy, my pupil will prepare you, I myself will decide on 
the style.* 

' Marius, a little man, his face seamed with the small- 
pox, his hair frizzed after Rubini's fashion, was dressed 
in black from head to foot. He wore white cufFs and a 
diamond in his shirt-frill. He recognised Bixiou, and 
saluted him as an equal power. 

^ A commonplace head,' he remarked to Leon, indi- 
cating the subject under his fingers, ^ a philistine. But 
what can one do ? If one lived by art alone, one would 
end raving mad at Bicetre.' And he returned to his 
client with an inimitable gesture and a parting injunction 
to Regulus, ^ Be careful with that gentleman, he is 
evidently an artist.' 

' A journalist,' said Bixiou. 

At that word Marius passed the comb two or three 
times over the ^ commonplace head,' swooped down upon 
Gazonal just as the small shears were brought into play, 
and caught Regulus by the arm with — 

* I will take this gentleman. — Look, see yourself in 
the large mirror, sir (if the glass can stand it),' he said, 
addressing the relinquished philistine. — ^ Ossian ! ' 

A lackey came in and carried ofF the * client.' 

^ Pay at the desk, sir,' said Marius as the bewildered 
customer drew out his purse. 

*Is it any use, my dear fellow, to proceed to this 
operation with the small shears ? ' asked Bixiou. 

^ A head never comes under my hands until it has 
been brushed,' said the great man ; * but on your 
account I will take this gentleman from beginning to 
end. The blocking out I leave to my pupils, I do not 
care to take it. Everybody, like vou, is for " M. Marius 
himself" ; I can only give the finishing touches. For 
what paper does monsieur write ? ' 

40 The Unconscious Miimmers 

^ In your place I would have three or four editions of 


^ Ah ! monsieur is a feuilletoniste, I see,' said Marius. 
^ Unluckily, a hairdresser must do his work himself, it 
cannot be done by a deputy. . . , Pardon me.' 

He left Gazonal to give an eye to Regulus, now 
engaged with a newly-arrived head, and made a disapprov- 
ing comment thereon, an inarticulate sound produced by 
tongue and palate, which may be rendered thus — * titt, 
titt, titt.' 

* Goodness gracious ! come now, that is not broad 
enough, your scissors are leaving furrows behind them. 
. • . Stay a bit ; look here, Regulus, you are not clipping 
poodles, but men — men with characters of their own ; and 
if you continue to gaze at the ceiling instead of dividing 
your attention between the glass and the face, you will 
be a disgrace to " my house." ' 

* You are severe, M. Marius.' 

* I must do my duty by them, and teach them the 
mysteries of the art ' 

* Then it is an art, is it ? ' 

Marius stopped in indignation, the scissors in one 
hand, the comb in the other, and contemplated Gazonal 
in the glass. 

* Monsieur, you talk like a child. And yet, 

from your accent, you seem to come from the South, 
the land of men of genius.' 

* Yes. It requires taste of a kind, I know,' returned 

^ Pray say no more, monsieur ! I looked for better 
things from you. I mean to say that a hairdresser (I 
do not say a good hairdresser, for one is either a hair- 
dresser or one is not), a hairdresser is not so easily found 
as — what shall I say ? — as — I really hardly know — as a 
Minister — (sit still) no, that will not do, for you cannot 
judge of the value of a Minister, the streets are full of 
them. — A Paganini ? — no, that will not quite do. — A 

The Unconscious Mummers 41 

hairdresser, monsieur, a man that can read your character 
and your habits, must have that in him which makes a 
philosopher. And for the women ! But there, women 
appreciate us, they know our value; they know that 
their truimphs are due to us when they come to us to 
prepare them for conquest . . , which is to say that a 
hairdresser is — but no one knows what he is. I myself, 
for instance, you will scarcely find a — well, without 
boasting, people know what I am. Ah ! well, no, I 
think there should be a better yet. . . . Execution, that 
is the thing ! Ah, if women would but give me a free 
hand ; if I could but carry out all the ideas that occur 
to me ! — for I have a tremendous imagination, you see 
— but women will not co-operate with you, they have 
notions of their own, they will run their fingers or their 
combs through the exquisite creations that ought to be 
engraved and recorded, for our works only live for a 
few hours, you see, sir ! Ah ! a great hairdresser should 
be something like what Careme and Vestris are in their 
lines. — (Your head this way, if you please, I am catch- 
ing the expression. That will do.) — Bunglers, incapable 
of understanding their epoch or their art, are the ruin 
of our profession. — They deal in wigs, for instance, or 
hair-restorers, and think of nothing but selling you a 
bottle of stuff, making a trade of the profession ; it 
makes one sorry to see it. The wretches cut your hair 
and brush it anyhow. Now, when I came here from 
Toulouse, it was my ambition to succeed to the great 
Marius, to be a true Marius, and in my person to add 
such lustre to the name as it had not known with the 
other four. " Victory or death ! " said I to myself. 
(Sit up, I have nearly finished.) I was the first to aim 
at elegance. My salons excited curiosity. I scorn 
advertisements; I spend the cost of advertisements on 
comfort, monsieur, on improvements. Next year I 
shall have a quartette in a little salon; I shall have 
music, and the best music. Yes, one must beguile the 

42 The Unconscious Mummers 

tedium of the time spent in the dressing-room. I do 
not shut mv eyes to the unpleasant aspects of the 
operation, (Look at yourself.) A visit to the hair- 
dresser is perhaps quite as tiring as sitting for a portrait. 
Monsieur knows the fimous M. de Humboldt? (I 
minieed to make the most of the little hair that 
America spared to him, for science has this much in 
common with the savage — she is sure to scalp her man.) 
Well, the great man said, as monsieur perhaps knows, 
that if it was painful to go to be handed, it was only 
less painful to sit for your portrait. I myself am of 
the opinion of a good many women, that a visit to the 
hairdresser is more trying than a visit to the studio. 
Well, monsieur, I want people to come here for plea- 
sure. (You have a rebellious tuft of hair.) A Jew 
suggested Italian opera-singers to pluck out the grey 
hairs of young fellows of forty in the intervals ; but his 
signoras turned out to be young persons from the 
Conservatoire, or pianoforte teachers from the Rue 
Montmartre. — Now, monsieur, your hair is worthy of 
a man of talent. — Ossian ! ' (to the lackey in livery) 
* brush this gentleman's coat, and go to the door with 
him. — Who comes next ? ' he added majestically, glanc- 
ing round a group of customers waiting for their turn. 

^ Do not laugh, Gazonal,' said Leon as they reached 
the foot of the stairs. ^ I can see one of our great men 
down yonder,' he continued, exploring the Place de la 
Bourse with his eyes. ' You shall have an opportunity 
of making a comparison; when you have heard him 
talk, you shall tell me which is the queerer of the two- 
he or the hairdresser.' 

* *^ Do not laugh, Gazonal," ' added Bixiou, imitating 
Leon's manner. 'What is Marius's business, do you 
think i ; 

* He is a hairdresser.' 

* He has gradually made a monopoly of the wholesale 
trade in human hair, just as the provision dealer of whom 

The Unconscious Mummers 43 

we shall shortly buy a Strasbourg pie for three francs 
has the truffle trade entirely in his hands. He discounts 
bills in his line of business, he lends money to customers 
at a pinch, he deals in annuities, he speculates on 
'Change, he is a shareholder in all the &shion papers ; 
and finally, under the name of a chemist, he sells an 
abominable drug which brings him in thirty thousand 
francs per annum as his share of the profits, and costs a 
hundred thousand francs in advertisements.' 

* Is it possible ? ' 

^Bear this in mind,' Bixiou replied with gravity, 
' in Paris there is no such thing as a small trade ; every- 
thing here is done on a large scale, be it frippery or 
matches. The barkeeper standing with a napkin under 
his arm to watch you enter his shop very likely has an 
income of fifty thousand francs from investments in the 
funds. The waiter has a vote, and may offer himself for 
election ; a man whom you might take for a beggar in 
the street carries a hundred thousand francs' worth of 
unmounted diamonds in his waistcoat pocket, and does 
not steal them.' 

The three, inseparable for that day at least, were 
piloted by Leon de Lora in such sort that at the corner 
of the Rue Vivienne they ran against a man of forty or 
thereabouts with a ribbon in his buttonhole. 

' My dear Dubourdieu, what are you dreaming about ? 
Some beautiful allegorical composition ? ' asked Leon. — 
^ My dear cousin, I have the pleasure of introducing you 
to the well-known painter Dubourdieu, celebrated no less 
for his genius than for his humanitarian convictions. — 
Dubourdieu, my cousin Palafox ! ' 

Dubourdieu, a pallid little man with melancholy blue 
eyes, nodded slightly while Gazonal bowed low to the 
man of genius. 

' So you have nominated Stidmann instead of ' 

^ How could I help it ! I was away,' returned Leon 
de Lora. 

44 The Unconscious Mummers 

'Yoii are lowering the standard of the Acad^mie,' 
resumed the painter. 'To think of choosing such a 
man as that ! I do not wish to say any harm of him, 
but he really is a craftsman. . . . What is to become of 
the first and most permanent of all the arts, of sculpture 
that reveals the life of a nation when everything else, 
even the memory of its existence, has passed away— of 
sculpture that sets the seal of eternity upon the great 
man ? The sculptor's office is sacred. He sums up the 
thought of his age, and you, forsooth, fill the ranks of 
the priesthood by taking in a bungling mantelpiece 
maker, a designer of drawing-room ornaments, one of 
those that buy and sell in the Temple ! Ah ! as 
Chamfort said, " If you are to endure life in Paris, you 
must begin by swallowing a viper every morning. . . ." 
After all. Art remains to us ; no one can prevent us 
from cultivating Art.' 

* And besides, my dear fellow, you have a consolation 
which few among artists possess — the future is yours,' 
put in Bixiou. * When every one is converted to our 
doctrine, you will be the foremost man in your art, for 
the ideas which you put into your work will be compre- 
hensible to all — when they are common property. In 
fifty years' time you will be for the world at large what 
you are now for u? — a great man. It is only a question 
of holding out till then.' 

The artist's face smoothed itself out, after the wont 
of mortal man when flattered on his weak side. * I have 
just finished an allegorical figure of Harmony,' he said. 
' If you care to come to see it, you will understand at 
once how I managed to put two years' work into it. It 
is all there. At a glance you see the Destiny of the 
Globe. She is a queen holding a bishop's crozier, the 
symbol of the aggrandisement of races useful to man ; 
on her head she wears the cap of Liberty, and after the 
Egyptian fashion (the ancient Egyptians seem to have 
had foreshadowings of Fourier) she has six breasts. Her 

The Unconscious Mummers 45 

feet rest upon two clasped hands, which enclose the 
globe between them, to signify the brotherhood of man ; 
beneath her lie broken fragments of cannon, because all 
war is abolished, and I have tried to give her the serenity 
of Agriculture triumphant. At her feet, besides, I have 
put an enormous Savoy cabbage, the Master's symbol of 
Concord, Oh, it is not Fourier's least claim to our 
veneration that he revived the association of plants and 
ideas ; every detail in creation is linked to the rest by 
its significance as a part of a whole, and no less by its 
special language. In a hundred years' time the globe 
will be much larger than it is now ' 

* And how will that come to pass ? ' inquired Gazonal, 
amazed to hear a man outside a lunatic asylum talking 
in this way. 

* By the increase of production. If people make up 
their minds to apply the System, it should react upon 
the stars ; it is not impossible ' 

* And in that case what will become of painting ? ' 
asked Gazonal, 

* Painting will be greater than ever,' 

* And will our eyes be larger ? ' continued Grazonal, 
looking significantly at his friends, 

^Man will be once more as in the days before his 
degradation ; our six-foot men will be dwarfs when that 
time comes ^ 

' How about your picture,' interrupted Leon ; Ms it 
finished ? ' 

* Quite finished,' said Dubourdieu. * I tried to see 
Hiclar about a symphony. I should like those who see 
the picture to hear music in Beethoven's manner at the 
same time ; the music would develop the ideas, which 
would thus reach the intelligence through the avenues of 
sight and sound. Ah ! if the Government would only 
lend me one of the halls in the Louvre ' 

*But I will mention it if you like. Nothing that 
can strike people'*s minds should be left undone.' 

46 The Unconscious Mummers 

^ Oh ! mv friends are preparing articles, but I am 
afraid that toey may go too far.' 

^ Pshaw ! ' said Bixiou, they will go nothing like as 
fiu- as the Future * 

Dubourdieu eyed Bixiou askance and went on his way. 

^ Why, the man is a lunatic/ said Grazonal, ^ moon- 
struck and mad.' 

' He has technical skill and knowledge/ said Leon, 
^ but Fourier has been the ruin of him. You have just 
seen one way in which ambition affects an artist. Too 
often here in Paris, in his desire to reach fame (which 
for an artist means fortune) by some short cut, he 
will borrow wings of circumstance; he will think to 
increase his stature by identifying himself with some 
Cause, or advocating some system, hoping in time to 
widen his coterie into a public. Such an one sets up to 
be a Republican, such another a Saint-Simonian, an 
aristocrat or a Catholic, or he is for the juste milieu^ or 
the Middle Ages, or for Germany. But while opinions 
cannot give talent, they inevitably spoil it ; witness this 
unfortunate being whom you have just seen. An artistes 
opinion ought to be a faith in works ; and his one way 
to success is to work while Nature gives him the sacred 

' Let us fly, Leon is moralising,' said Bixiou.' 

' And did the man seriously mean what he said ? ' 
cried Gazonal; he had not yet recovered from his 

'Very seriously,' replied Bixiou; 'he was quite as 
much in earnest as the king of hairdressers just now.' 

' He is crazy,' said Gazonal. 

* He is not the only man driven crazy by Fourier's 
notions,' returned Bixiou. 'You know nothing of 
Paris. Ask for a hundred thousand francs to carry out 
some idea most likely to be useful to the species (to try 
a steam-engine, for instance), you will die like Salomon 
de Caus at Bicetre ; but when it comes to a paradox. 

The Unconscious Mummers 47 

any one will be cut in pieces for it — he and his fortune. 
Well, here it is with systems as with practical matters. 
Impossible newspapers have consumed millions of francs 
in the last fifteen years. The very fact that you are in 
the right of it makes your lawsuit so difficult to win ; 
taken together with the other fact that your prefect has 
his own private ends to gain, as you say. 

^ Can you understand how a clever man can live any- 
where but in Paris when once he knows the psychology 
of the city ? ' asked Leon. 

' Suppose that we take Gazonal to Mother Fontaine/ 
suggested Bixiou, beckoning a hackney cab, ^ it would be 
a transition from the severe to the fantastic. — Drive to 
the Rue Vieille-du-Temple,' he called to the man, and 
the three drove away in the direction of the Marais. 

^ What are you taking me to see ? ' 

^Ocular demonstration of Bixiou's remarks,' said 
Leon ; ^ you are to be shown a woman who makes 
twenty thousand francs per annum by exploiting an 

'A fortune-teller,' explained Bixiou, construing 
Gazonal's expression as a question. ' Among folk that 
wish to know the future, Mme. Fontaine is held to be 
even wiser than the late Mile. Lenormand.' 

*She must be very rich ! ' 

'She has hllen a victim to her idea since lotteries 
came into existence. In Paris, you see, great receipts 
always mean a large expenditure. Every hard head has 
a crack in it somewhere, like a safety-valve, as it were, 
for the steam. Every one that makes a great deal of 
money has his weaknesses or his fancies, a provision of 
nature probably to keep the balance.' 

' And now that lotteries are abolished ? ' 

' Oh, well, she has a nephew, and is saving for him.' 

Arrived in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple, the three 
friends entered one of the oldest houses in the street, and 
discovered a tremulous staircase, with wooden steps laid 

48 The Unconscious Mummers 

on a fbundatioo of concrete. Up ther went in the per- 
petual twilight, through the fetid atmosphere peculiar to 
houses with a passage entnr, till they reached the third 
storr, and a door which can onlv be described bva draw- 
ing ; any attempt to gi\'e an adequate idea of it in words 
would consume too much midnight oil. 

An old crone, so much in keeping with the door that 
she might haix been its Uving counterpart, admitted the 
three into a room which did duty as an antechamber, icy 
cold as a crypt, while the streets outside were sweltering 
in the heat. Puffs of damp air came up from an inner 
court, a sort of huge breathing-hole in the building ; a 
box full of sickly-looking plants stood on the window- 
ledge. A grey daylight filled the room. Everything 
was glazed over with a greasy fiiliginous deposit; the 
chairs and table, the whole room, in fact, was squalid ; 
the damp oozed up through the brick floor like water 
through the sides of a Moorish jar. There was not a 
single detail which did not harmonise with the hook- 
nosed, pallid, repulsive old hag in the much-mended 
rags, who asked them to be seated, and informed them 
that Madame never saw more than one person at a 

Gazonal screwed up his courage and went boldly 

The woman whom he confronted looked like one 
of those whom Death has forgotten, or more probably 
left as a copy of himself in the land of the living. Two 
grey eyes, so immovable that it tired you to look at them, 
glittered in a fleshless countenance on either side of a 
sunken, snufF-bedabbled nose. A set of knuckle-bones, 
firmly mounted with sinews almost like bone, made as 
though they were human hands, thrumming like a piece 
of machinery thrown out of gear upon a pack of cards. 
The body, a broomstick decently draped with a gown, 
enjoyed the advantages of still life to the full ; it did 
not move a hairVbreadth. A black velvet cap rose 

The Unconscious Mummers 49 

above the automaton's forehead. Mme. Fontaine, for 
she was really a woman, sat with a black fowl on her right 
hand, and a fat toad named Ashtaroth on her left. 
Gazonal did not notice the creature at first. 

The toad, an animal of portentous size, was less 
alarming in himself than by reason of a couple of topazes, 
each as large as a fifty centime piece, that glowed like 
lamps in his head. Their gaze was intolerable. * The 
toad is a m3rsterious creature, as the late M. Lassailly used 
to say, after lying out in the fields to have the last word 
with a toad that fascinated him. Perhaps, all creation, 
man included, is summed up in the toad ; for Lassailly 
tells us that it lives on almost indefinitely, and it is 
well known that, of all animals, its mating lasts the 

The black fowl's cage stood two feet away from a 
table covered with' a green cloth ; a plank like a draw- 
bridge lay between. 

When the woman, the least real of the strange com- 
pany about a table worthy of Hoffmann, bade Gazonal 
* Cut ! ' — the honest manufacturer shuddered in spite of 
himself. The secret of the formidable power of such 
creatures lies in the importance of the thing we seek to 
learn of them. Men and women come to buy hope of 
them ; and they know it. 

The sibyl's cave was a good deal darker than the ante- 
chamber, so much so, in fact, that you could not distinguish 
the colour of the wall-paper. The smoke- begrimed 
ceiling, so far from reflecting, seemed rather to absorb" 
such feeble light as struggled in through a window 
blocked up with bleached sickly-looking plant-life ; but 
all the dim daylight in the place fell full upon the table 
at which the sorceress sat. Her armchair and a chair for 
Gazonal completed the furniture of a little room cut 
in two by a garret, where Mme. Fontaine evidently 
slept. A little door stood ajar, and the murmur of a pot 
boiling on the fire reached Gazonal's ears. The sounds 


50 The Unconscious Mummers 

from the kitchen, the compound of odours in which 
effluvia from the fink predominated, called up an incon* 

(i;ruouf auociation of ideas — the neccMitiet of everydajr 
ife and the tense of the supernatural. Disgust was 
mingled with curiosity. Gazonal caught sight of the 
lowest step of the deal staircase which led to the garret; 
he saw all these particulars at a elance, and his gorse 
rose. The kind of terror inspired by similar scenes m 
romances and German plays was somehow so different ; 
the absence of illusion, the prosaic sensation caught him by 
the throat* He felt heavy and dizzy in that atmosphere ; 
the eloom set his nerves on edge« With the very cox- 
combry of courage, he turned his eyes on the toad, and 
with sickening sensation of heat in the pit of the 
stomach, felt a sort of panic such as a criminal mieht 
feel at sight of a policeman* Then he sought comfort 
in a scrutiny of Mme« Fontaine, and found a pair of 
colourless, almost white eves, with intolerable un- 
wavering black pupils. Tne silence grew positively 

^ What does monsieur wish ? ' asked Mme. Fontaine. 
^ His fortune for five francs, or ten francs, or the 
grand jeu ? * 

^ Five francs is quite dear enough,' said the Provencal, 
making unspeakable efforts to fight aeainst the influences 
of the place. But just as he strove for self-possenion, a 
diabolical cackle made him start on his chair. The 
black hen emitted a sound. 

^ Go away, my girl. Monsieur only wishes to spend 
five francs.' 

The hen seemed to understand, for when she stood 
within a step of the cards, she turned and walked solemnly 
back to her place. 

^ Which IS your favourite flower?' asked the old 
crone, in a voice hoarse with the accumulation of phlegm 
in her throat. 

*The rose.' 

The Unconscious Mummers 51 

' Your &vourite colour ? ' 

* Blue.' 

^ What animal do you like best ? ' 

* The horse. Why do you ask ? ' queried Gazonal in 

^ Man is linked to other forms of life by his own 
previous existences,' she said sententiously, 'hence his 
instincts, and his instincts control his destiny. — Which 
kind of food do you like best ; fish, game, grain, butcher 
meat, sweet things, fruit, or vegetables ? ' 


' In what month were you born ? ' 

' September.' 

' Hold out your hand.' 

Mme. Fontaine scanned the palm put forth for her 
inspection with close attention. All this was done in a 
business-like way, with no attempt to give a super- 
natural colour to the proceedings; a notary asking a 
client's wishes with regard to the drafting of a lease could 
not have been more straightforward. The cards being 
sufficiently shuffled, she asked Gazonal to cut and make 
them up into three packs. This done, she took up the 
packs, spread them out one above another, and eyed 
them as a gambler eyes the thirty-six numbers at 
roulette before he stakes his money. 

Gazonal felt a cold chill freeze the marrow of his 
bones ; he scarcely knew where he was ; but his sur- 
prise grew more and more when this repulsive hag in 
the greasy, flabby green skull-cap, and false front that 
exhibited more black silk than hair curled into points of 
interrogation, began to tell him, in her rheumy voice, of 
all the events, even the most intimate history of his past 
life. She told him his tastes, his habits, his character, 
his ideas even as a child ; she knew all that might have 
influenced his life. There was his projected marriage, for 
instance ; she told him why and by whom it was broken 
oflF, giving him an exact description of the woman he had 

52 The Unconscious Mummers 

loved ; and finally she named his district, and told him 
about his lawsuit, and so on, and so on. 

Gazonal thought at first that the whole thing was a 
hoax got up for his benefit by his cousin; but the 
absurdity of this theory struck him almost at once, and 
he sat in gaping astonishment. Opposite sat the infernal 
power incarnate, a power that, from among all human 
shapes, had borrowed that one which has struck the 
imagination of poets and painters throughout all time as 
the most appalling — a cold-blooded, shrunken, asthmatic, 
toothless hag, with hard lips, flat nose, and pale eyes. 
Nothing was alive about Mme. Fontaine's fiice save 
the eyes ; some gleam from the depths of the future or 
the fires of hell sparkled in them. 

Gazonal, scarcely knowing what he said, interrupted 
her to ask the uses of the fowl and the toad. 

*To foretell the future. The "consultant** himself 
scatters some seeds over the cards ; Cleopatra comes to 
pick them up ; and Ashtaroth creeps over them to seek 
the food that the client gives him. Their wonderful 
intelligence is never deceived. Would you like to see 
them at work and hear your future read ? It costs a 
hundred francs.' 

But Gazonal, dismayed by Ashtaroth's expression, bade 
the terrible Mme. Fontaine good-day, and fled into the 
next room. He was damp with perspiration; he seemed 
to feel an unclean spirit brooding over him. 

^ Let us go out of this,' he said. ' Has either of you 
ever consulted this witch ? ' 

' I never think of taking a step in life until Ashtaroth 
has given his opinion,' said Leon, ' and I am always the 
better for it.' 

' I am still expecting the honest competence promised 
me by Cleopatra,' added Bixiou. 

^ I am in a fever ! ' cried the child of the South. ' If 
I believed all that you tell me, I should believe in witch- 
craft, in a supernatural power.' 

The Unconscious Mummers 53 

^It can only be natural,* put in Bixiou. ^Half the 
artists alive, one-third of the lorettes, and one-fourth of 
the statesmen consult Mme. Fontaine. It is well known 
that she acts as Egeria to a certain statesman.' 

* Did she tell you your fortune ? ' inquired Leon. 

* No. I had quite enough of it with the past.' A 
sudden idea struck Gazonal. ^ But if she and her dis- 
gusting coUaborators can foretell the future,' he said, 
^ how is it that she is unlucky in the lottery ? ' 

^ Ah ! there you have set your finger on one of the 
great mjrsteries of occult science,' answered Leon. 'So 
soon as the personal element dims the surface of that 
inward mirror, as it were, which reflects past and future, 
so soon as you introduce any motive foreign to the 
exercise of this power that they possess, the sorcerer or 
sorceress at once loses the power of vision. It is the 
same with the artist who systematically prostitutes art 
to gain advancement or alien ends; he loses his gift. 
Mme. Fontaine once had a rival, a man who told fortunes 
on the cards ; he fell into criminal courses, yet he never 
foresaw his own arrest, conviction, and sentence. Mme. 
Fontaine is right eight times out of ten, yet she never 
could tell that she should lose her stake in the lottery.' 

'It is the same with magnetism,' Bixiou remarked. 
' A man cannot magnetise himself.' 

'Good ! Now comes magnetism. What next ! Do 
you really know everything?' 

' My friend Gazonal, before you can laugh at every- 
thing, you must know everything,' said Bixiou with 
fravity. ' For my own part, I have known Paris since 
wzs a boy, and my pencil helps me to laugh for a live- 
lihood at the rate of five caricatures per month. So I 
very often laugh at an idea in which I have faith.' 

' Now, let us go in for something else,' said Leon. 
'Let us drive to the Chamber and arrange the cousin's 

'This,' continued Bixiou, burlesquing Odry and 

54 'I'he Unconscious Mummers 

Gaillard, * is High Comedy ; we will draw out the first 
great speaker that we meet in the Salle des Pas Perdus ; 
and there, as everywhere else, you shall hear the Parisian 
harping upon two eternal strings — Self-interest and 

As they stepped into the cab aeain, Leon noticed a 
man driving rapidly past, and signalled his wish to speak 
a word with the newcomer. 

* It is Publicola M asson,' he told Bixiou ; ^ I will just 
ask him for an interview this evening at five o'clock 
when the House rises. The cousin shall see the queerest 
of all characters.' 

* Who is it ? ' asked Gazonal, while Leon went across 
to speak to his man. 

^ A chiropodist, that will cut your corns by contract, 
an author of a treatise on chiropody. If the Republicans 
triumph for six months, he will without doubt have a 
place in history.' 

* And does he keep a carriage ? ' 

* No one but a millionaire can afford to go about on 
foot here, my friend.' 

* The Chamber ! ' Leon called to the driver. 
« Which, sir?' 

^ The Chamber of Deputies,' said Leon, exchanging 
a smile with Bixiou. 

* Paris is beginning to confuse me,' sighed Gazonal. 
*To show you its immensity — moral, political, and 

literary — we are copying the Roman cicerone that shows 
you a thumb of the statue of St. Peter, which you take 
for a life-size figure until you find out that a finger is 
more than a foot long. You have not so much as 
measured one of the toes of Paris yet ' 

'And observe, cousin Gazonal, that we are taking 
things as they come, we are not selecting.' 

' You shall have a Belshazzar's feast to-night ; you 
shall see Paris, our Paris, playing at lansquenet, staking 
a hundred thousand francs without winking an eye.' 

The Unconscious Mummers 55 

Fifteen minutes later their hackney cab set them 
down by the flight of steps before the Chamber of 
Deputies on that side of the Pont de la Concorde which 
leads to discord. 

* I thought the Chambers were unapproachable,' said 
Gazonal, surprised to find himself in the great Salle des 
Pas Perdus. 

'That depends,' said Bixiou. 'Physically speaking, 
it costs you thirty sous in cab hire ; politically speaking, 
rather more. A poet says tl^t the swallows think that 
the Arc de Triomphe de I'Etoile was built for them ; 
and we artists believe that this public monument was 
built to console the failures on the stage of the Theatre- 
Fran^ais and to amuse us; but these state-paid play- 
actors are more expensive than the others, and it is not 
every day that we get our money*s worth.' 

' So this is the Chamber ! . • • repeated Gazonal. He 
strode through the great hall, almost empty now, looking 
about him with an expression which Bixiou noted down 
in his memory for one of the famous caricatures in which 
he rivals Gavarni. Leon on his side walked up to one 
of the ushers who come and go constantly between the 
Salle des Seances itself and the lobby, where the reporters 
of the Moniteur are at work while the House is sitting, 
with some persons attached to the Chamber. 

' The Minister is here,' the usher was telling Leon as 
Gazonal came up, 'but I do not know whether M. 

Giraud has gone or not ; I will see ' He opened 

one of the folding doors through which no one is allowed 
to pass save deputies, ministers, or royal commissioners, 
when a man came out, young as yet, as it seemed to 
Gazonal, in spite of his forty-eight years. To this 
newcomer the usher pointed out Leon de Lora. 

' Aha ! you here ! ' he said, shaking hands with Leon 
and Bixiou. ' You rascals ! what do you want in the 
innermost sanctuary of law ? ' 

' Gad ! we have come for a lesson in the art of 

56 The Unconscious Mummers 

humbug,* said Bixiou. ' One gets rusty if one does 

' Then let us go out into the garden/ said the new- 
comer, not knowing that Gazonal was one of the 

G^izonal was at a loss how to classify the well-dressed 
stranger in plain black from head to foot, with a ribbon 
and an order; but he followed to the terrace by the 
river once known as the Quai Napoleon. Out in the 
garden the ci-devant young man gave vent to a laugh, 
suppressed since his appearance in the Salle des Pas 

* Why, what is the matter with you ? * asked Leon. 

'My dear friend, we are driven to tell terrific lies 
with incredible coolness to prove the sincerity of the 
constitutional government. Now I myself have my 
moods. There are days when I can lie like a political 
programme, and others when I cannot keep my coun- 
tenance. This is one of my hilarious days. Now the 
Opposition has called upon the chief secretary to dis- 
close secrets of diplomacy which he would not impart 
if they were in office, and at this moment he is on his 
legs preparing to go through a gymnastic performance. 
And as he is an honest man that will not lie on his own 
account, he said confidentially to me before he mounted 
to the breach, '^ I have not a notion what to tell them.'* 
So, when I saw him there, an uncontrollable desire to 
laugh seized me, and I went out, for you cannot very 
well have your laugh out on the Ministerial benches, 
where my youth occasionally revisits me unseasonably.* 

' At last ! * cried Gazonal. ' At last ! I have found an 
honest man in Paris. You must be indeed great ! * he 
continued, looking at the stranger. 

'I say, who is this gentleman?' inquired the other, 
scrutinising Gazonal as he spoke. 

'A cousin of mine,' Leon put in hastily. *I can 
answer for his silence and loyalty as for my own. We 

The Unconscious Mummisrs 57 

have come here on his account ; he has a lawsuit on 
hand, it depends on your department ; his prefect simply 
wishes to ruin him, and we have come to see you about 
it and to prevent the Council of State from confirming 

* Who is the chairman ? * 

* Massol.* 

'And our friends Claude Vignon and Giraud are on 
the committee,' added Bixiou. 

'Just say a word to them, and let them come to 
Carabine's to-night,' said Leon* ' Du Tillet is giving a 
party, ostensibly a meeting of railway shareholders, for 
they rob you more than ever on the highways now.' 

'But, I say, is this in the Pyrenees?' inquired the 
young-looking stranger, grown serious by this time. 

' Yes,' said Gazonal. 

' And you do not vote for us at the general election,' 
he continued, fixing his eyes on Gazonal. 

'No; but the remarks you made just now have cor- 
rupted me. On the honour of a Commandant of the 
National Guard, I will see that your candidate is 
returned ' 

'Very well. Can you further guarantee your 
cousin ? ' asked the young-looking man, addressing 

' We are forming him,' said Bixiou, in a very comical 

' Well, I shall see,' said the other, and he hurried back 
to the Salle des Seances. 

' I say, who is that ? ' 

' The Comte de Rastignac ; he is the head of the 
department in which your affair is going on.' 

' A Minister ! Is that all ? ' 

' He is an old friend of ours as well, and he has three 
hundred thousand livres a year, and he is a peer of 
France, and the King has given him the title of Count. 

58 The Unconscious Mummers 

He is Nucingen's son-in-law, and one of the two or 
three statesmen produced by the Revolution of July. 
Now and then, however, he finds office dull, and comes 
out to have a laugh with us.' 

^ But, look here, cousin, you did not tell us that you 
were on the other side down yonder,' said Leon, taking 
Gazonal by the arm. ' How stupid you are ! One 
deputy more or less to the Right or Left, will you sleep 
any the softer for that ? ' 

' We are on the side of the others ' 

^ Let them be,' said Bixiou — Monrose himself could 
not have spoken the words more comically — ^ let them 
be, they have Providence on their side, and Providence 
will look after them without your assistance and in spite 
of themselves. — A manufacturer is bound to be a neces- 

* Good ! here comes Maxime with Canalis and Giraud,' 
cried Leon. 

^ Come, friend Gazonal ; the promised actors are 
arriving on the scene.' 

The three went towards the newcomers, who to all 
appearance were lounging on the terrace. 

' Have they sent you about your business that you are 
doing like this ? ' inquired Bixiou, addressing Giraud. 

' No. We have come out for a breath of air till the 
ballot is over.' 

* And how did the chief secretary get out of it ? ' 
^ He was magnificent ! ' said Canalis. 

* Magnificent ! ' from Giraud. 

' Magnificent ! ' from Maxime. 

^ I say ! Right, Left, and Centre all of one mind ! ' 

^ Each of us has a different idea in his head though,' 
Maxime de Trailles remarked. (Maxime was a Minis- 

'Yes,' laughed Canalis. Canalis had once been in 
office, but he was now edging away towards the 

The Unconscious Mummers 59 

*You have just enjoyed a great triumph,' Maxime 
said, addressing Canalis, ^ for you drove the Minister to 

^ Yes, and to lie like a charlatan,' returned Canalis, 
' A glorious victory ! * commented honest Giraud. 
' What would you have done in his place ? * 

* I should have lied likewise.' 

' Nobody calls it '* lying," ' said Maxime ; Mt is called 
" covering the Crown," ' and he drew Canalis a few 
paces aside.' 

Leon turned to Giraud. 

* Canalis is a very good speaker,' he said. 

' Yes and no,' returned the State Councillor. ^ He is 
an empty drum, an artist in words rather than a speaker. 
In short, 'tis a fine instrument, but it is not music, and 
therefore he has not had and never will have ^^ the ear of 
the House." He thinks that France cannot do without 
him ; but whatever happens, he cannot possibly be ^^ the 
man of the situation." ' 

Canalis and Maxime rejoined the group just as Giraud, 
deputy of the Centre-Left, delivered himself of this 
verdict. Maxime took Giraud by the arm and drew 
him away, probably to give the same confidences that 
Canalis had received. 

' What an honest, worthy fellow he is ! ' said Leon, 
indicating Giraud. 

* That kind of honesty is the ruin of a government,' 
replied Canalis. 

' Is he a good speaker in your opinion ? ' 

' Yes and no,* said Canalis* ' He is wordy and prosy. 

He is a plodding reasoner, a good logician ; but he does 

not comprehend the wider logic — the logic of events 

and of affairs — for which reason he has not and never 

will have " the ear of the House " ' 

Canalis was in the midst of his summing-up when the 
subject of his remarks came towards them with Maxime ; 
and, forgetting that there was a stranger present whose 

6o The Unconscious Mummers 

discretion was not so certain as Leon's or Bixiou's, he 
took Canalis's hand significantly* 

'Very good,* said he, *I agree to M. Ic Comte de 
Trailles's proposals. I will ask the question, but it will 
be pressed hard.' 

' Then we shall have the House with us on the ques- 
tion, for a man of your capacity and eloquence '^ always 
has the ear of the House," ' returned Canalis. * I will 
undertake to crush you and no mistake.' 

' You very likely will bring about a change of ministry, 
for on such ground you can do anything you like with 
the House, and you will be ''the man of the situa- 
tion " ' 

' Maxime has hocussed them both,' said Leon, turning 
to his cousin. ' That fine fellow is as much at home in 
parliamentary intrigue as a fish in water.' 

' Who is he ? ' asked Gazonal. 

' He was a scamp ; he is in a fair way to be an am- 
bassador,' answered Bixiou. 

' Giraud,' said Leon, ' do not go until you have asked 
Rastignac to say something, as he promised me he 
would, about a lawsuit that will come up for decision 
before you the day after to-morrow ; it affects my 
cousin here. I will come round to-morrow morning to 
see you about it.' And the three friends followed the 
three politicians, at a certain distance, to the Salle des 
Pas Perdus. 

'Now, cousin, look at the two yonder,' said Leon, 
pointing out a retired and very famous Minister and the 
leader of the Left Centre, ' those are two speakers that 
alwa)rs "have the ear of the House"; they have been 
called in joke the leaders of His Majesty's Opposition ; 
they have the ear of the House, so much so indeed that 
they very often pull it.* 

' It is four o'clock. Let us go back to the Rue de 
Berlin,' said Bixiou. 

' Yes. You have just seen the heart of the Govern- 

The Unconscious Mummers 6i 

ment ; now you ought to see the parasites and ascarides, 
the tapeworm, or, since one must call him by his name — 
the Republican.' 

The friends were no sooner packed into their cab 
than Gazonal looked maliciously at his cousin and Bixiou ; 
there was a pent-up flood of southern and splenetic 
oratory within him, 

* I had my suspicions before of this great jade of a 
city/ he burst out in his thick southern accent, 'but 
after this morning I despise it. The poor country 
district, for so shabby as she is, is an honest girl ; but 
Paris is a prostitute, rapacious, deceitful, artificial, and I 
am very glad to escape with my skin * 

' The day is not over yet,* Bixiou said sententiously, 
with a wink at Leon. 

' And why complain like a fool of a so-called prostitu- 
tion by which you will gain your case ? ' added Leon. 
' Do you think yourself a better man, less hypocritical 
than we are, less rapacious, less ready to make a descent 
of any sort, less taken up with vanity than all those 
whom we have set dancing like marionettes ? ' 

* Try to tempt me.* 

*Poor fellow!' shrugged Leon. *Have you not 
promised your vote and influence, as it is, to Rastignac ? ' 

' Yes ; because he is the only one among them that 
laughed at himself.' 

* Poor fellow ! * echoed Bixiou. ' And you distrust 
me when I have d^me nothing but laugh ! You remind 
me of a cur snapping at a tiger. — Ah, if you had but 
seen us making f,ame of somebody or other. Do you 
realise that we are capable of driving a sane man out of 
his wits ? ' 

At this point they reached Leon's house. The 
splendour of its furniture cut Gazonal short and put an 
end to the dispute. Rather later in the day it began to 
dawn upon him that Bixiou had been drawing him 

62 The Unconscious Mummers 

At half-past five, Leon de Lora was dressing for the 
evening, to Gazonal's great bewilderment. He counted 
up his cousin's thousand - and - one superfluities, and 
admired the valet's seriousness, when * monsieur's chiro- 
podist' was announced, and Publicola Masson entered 
the room, bowed to Gazonal and Bixiou, set down a 
little case of instruments, and took a low chair opposite 
Leon. The newcomer, a little man of Hfty, bore a 
certain resemblance to Marat. 

^ How are things going ? ' inquired Leon, holding out 
a foot, previously washed by the servant* 

* Well, I am compelled to take a couple of pupils, 
two young fellows that have given up surgery in despair 
and taken to chiropody. They were starving, and yet 
they are not without brains ' 

^ Oh, I was not speaking of matters pedestrian ; I was 
asking after your political programme ' 

Masson's glance at Gazonal was more expressive than 
any spoken inquiry. 

' Oh ! speak out ; that is my cousin, and he is all but 
one of you ; he fancies that he is a Legitimist.' 

* Oh, well, we are getting on j we are getting on. 
All Europe will be with us in five years' time. Switzer- 
land and Italy are in full ferment, and we are ready for 
the opportunity if it comes. Here, for instance, we 
have fifty thousand armed men, to say nothing of two 
hundred thousand penniless citizens ' 

' Pooh ! ' said Leon, ^ how about the fortifications ? ' 
' Pie crusts made to be broken,' Masson retorted. 
' In the first place, we shall never allow artillery to come 
within range ; and in the second, we have a little con- 
trivance more effectual than all the fortifications in the 
world, an invention which we owe to the doctor who 
cured folk faster than all the rest of the ^^culty could kill 
them while his machine was in operation.' 

' What a rate you are going ! ' said Gazonal. The 
sight of Publicola made his flesh creep. 

The Unconscious Mummers 63 

* Oh, there is no help for it. We come after Robes- 
pierre and Saint-Just, to improve upon them. They 
were timid, and you see what came of it — ^an emperor, 
the elder branch and then the younger. The Mountain 
did not prune the social tree su£5ciently.' 

' Look here, you that will be consul, or tribune, or 
something like it, don't forget that I have asked for your 
protection any time these ten years,' said Bixiou. 

^ Nothing will happen to you. We shall need jesters, 
and you could take up Barere's job/ 

' And I ? ' queried Leon. 

' Oh, you are my client j that will save you j for 
genius is an odious privileged class that receives far too 
much here in France. We shall be forced to demolish 
a few of our great men to teach the rest the lesson that 
they must be simple citizens.' 

This was said with a mixture of jest and earnest that 
sent a shudder through Gazonal. 

' Then will there be an end of religion ? ' he 

' An end of a State religion^ said Masson, laying a 
stress on the two last words j * every one will have his 
own belief. It is a very lucky thing that the Government 
just now is protecting the convents; they are accumulating 
the wealth for our Government. Everybody is con- 
spiring to help us. For instance, all those who pity 
the people, and bawl so much over the proletariat and 
the wage-earning classes, or write against the Jesuits, or 
interest themselves in the amelioration of anybody what- 
soever — communists, humanitarians, philanthropists, you 
understand, — all these folk are our advanced guard. 
While we lay in powder they are braiding the fuse, and 
the spark of circumstance will set fire to it.' 

* Now, pray, what do you want for the welfare of the 
country ? ' 

* Equality among the citizens, cheap commodities of 
every kind. There shall be no starving folk on one 

64 The Unconscious Mummers 

hand no millionaires on the other ; no blood-suckers, 
no victims — that is what we want.' 

' Which is to say the maximum and the minimum ? ' 
queried Gazonal. 

' You have said,' the other returned laconically. 

' An end of manufacturers ? ' 

' M anu&ctures will be carried on for the benefit of the 
State ; we shall all have a life interest in France. Every 
man will have his rations served out as if he were on 
board ship, and everybody will do the work for which 
he is fitted.' 

^ Good. And meanwhile, until you can cut your aris- 
tocrats' heads ofF ' 

'I pare their nails,' said the Republican-Radical, 
shutting up his case of instruments and finishing the 
joke himself. Then with a very polite bow he with- 

^ Is it possible ? In 1 845 ? ' cried Gazonal. 

^ If we had time we could show you all the characters 
of 1793 ; and you should talk with them. You have 
just seen Marat. Well, we know Fouquier-Tinville, 
CoUot-d'Herbois, Robespierre, Chabot, Fouche, Barras, 
and even a magnificent Mme. Roland.' 

' Ah, well, tragedy has not been left unrepresented on 
this stage,' said Gazonal. 

* It is six o'clock. We will take you to see Odry in 
Les Saltimbanques this evening, but first we must call 
upon Mme. Cadine, an actress, very intimate with 
Massol your chairman; you must pay your court 
assiduously to her to-night.' 

^ As it is absolutely necessary that you should con- 
ciliate this power, I will just dve you a few hints,' 
added Bixiou. ^Do you employ women in your 

' Assuredly.' 

^ That was all that I wanted to know,' said Bixiou. 
^ You are not a married man, you are a great ' 

The Unconscious Mummers 65 

* Yes,* interrupted GazonaL * You have guessed j 
women are my weak point.' 

*Very good. If you decide to execute a little 
manceuvre which I will teach you, you shall know 
something of the charm of intimacy with an actress 
without spending one farthing.' 

Bixiou, intent on playing a mischievous trick upon the 
cautious Gazonal, had scarcely finished tracing out his 
part for him, when they reached Mme. Cadine's house 
in the Rue de la Victoire. But a hint was enough for 
the southern brain, as will shortly be seen. 

They climbed the stair of a tolerably fine house, and 
discovered Jenny Cadine finishing her dinner. She was 
to play in the second piece at the Gymnase. Gazonal 
introduced to the power, Leon and Bixiou went aside 
ostensibly to see a new piece of furniture, really to leave 
the two alone together; but not before Bixiou had 
whispered to her that ' this was Leon's cousin, a manu- 
facturer worth millions of francs. — He wants to gain his 
lawsuit against the prefect in the Council of State,' he 
added, *so he wishes to win yoii first, to have Massol 
on his side.' 

All Paris knows Jenny Cadine's great beauty ; no one 
can wonder, therefore, that Gazonal stood dumbfounded 
at sight of her. She had received him almost coldly at 
first, but during those few minutes that he spent alone 
with her she was very gracious to him. Gazonal looked 
contemptuously round at the drawing-room furniture 
through the door left ajar by his fellow-conspirators, and 
made a mental estimate of the contents of the dining- 

' How any man can leave such a woman as you in 

such a dog-hole as this ! ' he began. 

k ^ Ah ! there it is. It cannot be helped. Massol is 
not rich. I am waiting until he is a Minister ' 

^ Happy man ! ' exclaimed Gazonal, heaving a sigh 
from the depths of a provincial heart. 


66 The Unconscious Mummers 

^Good,' thought the actress, *I shall have new 
furniture ; I can rival Carabine now.' 

Leon came in. ^ Well, dear child/ he said, ^you are 
coming to Carabine's this evening, are you not ? Supper 
and lansquenet.' 

^ Will monsieur be there ? ' Jenny asked artlessly and 

^Yes, madame,'said Gazonal, dazzled by his rapid 

^ But Massol will be there too,' rejoined Bixiou. 

^ Well, and what has that to do with it ? ' retorted 
Jenny. * Now let us go, my treasures, I must be oiF to 
my theatre.' 

Gazonal handed her down to the cab that was waiting 
for her at the door, and squeezed her hands so tenderly, 
that Jenny wrung her fingers. 

* Eh ! ' she cried, * I have not a second set.' 

Once in the carriage, Gazonal tried to hug Bixiou. 
^ She is hooked ! ' he cried ; *you are a most unmitigated 
scoundrel ! ' 

^ So the women say,' returned Bixiou. 

At half-past eleven, after the play, a hackney cab 
brought the trio to Mile. Seraphine Sinet's abode. 
Every well-known lorette either takes a pseudonym, or 
somebody bestows one upon her, and Seraphine is better 
known as Carabine, possibly because she never &ils to 
bring down her ' pigeon.' She had come to be almost 
indispensable to du Tillet the famous banker, and 
member of the Left Centre, and at that time she was 
living in charming rooms in the Rue Saint-Georges. 
There are certain houses in Paris that seem &ted to 
carry on a tradition ; this particular house had already 
seen seven reigns of courtesans. A stockbroker had 
installed Suzanne de Val-Noble in it somewhere about the 
year 1827. The notorious Esther had here driven the 
fearon de Nucingen to commit the only follies of his life. 
Here Florine, and she whom some fiicetiously call the 

The Unconscious Mummers 67 

^ late Madame Schontz/ had shone in turn, and finally 
when du Tillet tired of his wife he had taken the little 
modern house and established Carabine in it; her 
lively wit, her oiFhand manners, her brilliant shameless- 
ness provided him with a counterpoise for the cares of 
life, domestic, public, and financial. 

Ten covers were always laid ; dinner was served (and 
splendidly) whether du Tillet and Carabine were at home 
or no. Artists, men of letters, journalists, and fre- 
quenters of the house dined there, and there was play of 
an evening. More than one member of the Chamber 
came hither to seek the pleasure that is paid for in Paris 
by its weight in gold. A few feminine eccentrics, 
certain falling stars of doubtful significance that sparkle 
in the Parisian firmament, appeared here in all the 
splendour of their toilettes. The conversation was 
good, for talk was unrestrained, and anything might be 
said and was said. Carabine, a rival of the no less 
celebrated Malaga, had fallen heir as it were to several 
salons; the coteries belonging to Florine (now Mme. 
Nathan), TuUia (afterwards Comtesse du Bruel), and 
Madame Schontz (who became the wife of President du 
Ronceret) had all rallied to Carabine. 

Gazonal made but one remark as he came in, but his 
observation was both legitimate and Legitimist — ^It is 
finer than the Tuileries,' said he ; and, indeed, his pro- 
vincial eyes found so much employment with satins, 
velvets, brocades, and gilding, that he did not see Jenny 
Cadine in a dress that commanded respect, hidden behind 
Carabine. She was taking mental notes of her litigant's 
entry while she chatted with her hostess. 

'This is my cousin, my dear,' said Leon, addressing 
Carabine ; ' he is a manu&cturer ; he dropped in upon 
me this morning from the Pyrenees. He knows nothing 
as yet of Paris ; he wants Massol's help in a case that has 
gone up to the Council of State ; so we have taken the 
liberty of bringing him here to supper, beseeching you 

68 The Unconscious Miunmers 

at the same time to leave him in fiiU possession of his 

faculties * 

^ As he pleases ; wine is dear,' said Carabine, scanning 
the provincial, who struck her as in no wise remark- 

As for Gazonal, dazzled by the women's dresses, the 
lights, the gilding, and the chatter of various groups, all 
concerned, as he supposed, with him and his affairs, he 
could only stammer out incoherent words. 

* Madame — madame — you are — you are very kind.' 

^ What do you manufacture ? ' asked the mistress of 
the house, smiling at him. 

^Say lace,' prompted Bixiou in a whisper, *and offer 
her pillow-lace or guipures.' 

c p.p.pill ' 

^ Pills!' said Carabine. *I say, Cadine, child, you 
have been taken in.' 

*Lace,' Gazonal got out, comprehending that he 
must pay for his supper. ^ It will give me the greatest 
pleasure to offer you — er — 3, dress — a scarf — a mantilla 
of my own manufacture.' 

' What, three things ! Well, well, you are nicer than 
you look,' returned Carabine. 

^ Paris has caught me,' said Gazonal to himself, as he 
caught sight of Jenny Cadine, and went to pay his 
respects to her. 

^ And what should / have ? ' asked the actress. 

* Why, my whole fortune ! ' cried Gazonal, shrewdly 
of the opinion that to offer all was to offier nothing. 

Massol, Claude Vignon, du Tillet, Maxime de 
Trailles, Nucingen, Du Bruel, Malaga, M. and Mme. 
Gaillard, Vauvinet, and a host of others crowded in. 

In the course of conversation, Massol and Gazonal 
went to the bottom of the dispute ; the former, without 
committing himself, remarked that the report was not 
yet drawn up, and that citizens might put confidence in 
the lights and the independent opinion of the Council of 

The Unconscious Mummers 69 

State. After this cut-and-dried response, Gazonal, 
losing hope, judged it necessary to win over the charm- 
ing Jenny Cadine, with whom he fell head over ears in 
love. Leon de Lora and Bixiou left their victim in the 
clutches of the most mischief-loving woman in their 
singular set, for Jenny Cadine was the famous Dejazet's 
sole rival. 

At the supper-table Gazonal was &scinated by the 
work of Froment Meurice, the modern Benvenuto 
Cellini — by costly plate, with contents worth the in- 
terest on the wrought silver that held them. The two 
perpetrators of the hoax had taken care to sit as (slt 
away ftom him as possible ; but furtively they watched 
the wily actress's progress. Ensnared by that insidious 
hint of new furniture, she had set herself to carry 
Gazonal home with her ; and never did lamb in the 
Fete-Dieu procession submit to be led by his St John the 
Baptist with a better grace than Gazonal showed in his 
obedience to this siren. 

Three days afterwards, Leon and Bixiou having 
meanwhile seen and heard nothing of their friend, 
repaired to his lodging about two o'clock in the after- 

^Well, cousin, the decision has been given in your 

* Alas ! it makes no difference now, cousin,' Gazonal 
answered, turning his melancholy eyes upon them ; ^ I 
have turned Republican again.' 

* ^uesaco? ' asked Leon. 

*I have nothing left, not even enough to pay my 
counsel. Mme. Jenny Cadine holds bills of mine for 
more than I am worth ' 

* It is a &ct that Cadine is rather expensive, but- 

* Oh ! I have had my money's worth. Ah ! what a 
woman ! After all, Paris is too much for a provincial. 
I am about to retire to La Trappe.' 

*Good,' said Bixiou. *Now you talk sensibly. 

70 The Unconscious Mummers 

Here, acknowledge the sovereign power of the 
capital ' 

^ And of capital ! ' cried Leon, holding out Gazonal's 

Gazonal stared at the papers in bewilderment. 

^ You cannot say that we have no notion of hospi- 
tality ; we have educated you, rescued you from want, 
treated you, and — ^amused you,' said Bixiou. 

^ And nothing to pay ! ' added Leon, with the gesture 
by which a street-boy conveys the idea that somebody 
has been successfully ^ done.' 

Paris, Nwemher 1 845. 



/ inscribe this to youj my dear Heine^ to you 
that represent in Paris the ideas and poetry of 
Germany^ in Germany the lively and witty critt- 
cism of France ; for you better than any other will 
know whatsoever this Study may contain of criti- 
cism and of jest y of love and truth. 

De Balzac. 

^ My dear friend/ said Mme. de la Baudraye, drawing a 
pile of manuscript from beneath her sofa cushion, ^ will 
you pardon me in our present straits for making a 
short story of something which you told me a few 
weeks ago ? ' 

* Anything is fair in these times. Have you not seen 
writers serving up their own hearts to the public, or 
very often their mistresses' hearts when invention fails ? 
We are coming to this, dear ; we shall go in quest of 
adventures, not so much for the pleasure of them as for 
the sake of having the story to tell afterwards.' 

^ After all, you and the Marquise de Rochefide have 
paid the rent, and I do not think, from the way things 
are going here, that I ever pay yours.' 

*Who knows. Perhaps the same good luck that 
befell Mme. de Rochefide may come to you.' 

^ Do you call it good luck to go back to one's 
husband ? ' 


72 A Prince of Bohemia 

^ No ; only great luck. Come, I am listening.' 
And Mme. de Baudraye read as follows : — 

^ Scene — a splendid salon in the Rue de Chartres-du- 
Roule. One of the most famous writers of the day 
discovered sitting on a settee beside a very illustrious 
Marquise, with whom he is on such terms of intimacy, 
as a man has a right to claim when a woman singles him 
out and keeps him at her side as a complacent souffre- 
douleur rather than a makeshift. 

* Well,* says she, * have you found those letters of 
which you spoke yesterday r You said that you could 
not tell me all about him without them ? ' 

* Yes, I have them.' 

^ It is your turn to speak ; I am listening like a child 
when his mother begins the tale of Le Grand Serpentin 

^ I count the young man in question in that group of 
our acquaintances which we are wont to style our 
friends. He comes of a good family ; he is a man of 
infinite parts and ill-luck, full of excellent dispositions 
and most charming conversation ; young as he is, he 
has seen much, and while awaiting better things, he 
dwells in Bohemia. Bohemianism, which by rights 
should be called the doctrine of the Boulevard des 
Italiens, finds its recruits among young men between 
twenty and thirty, all of them men of genius in their 
way, little known, it is true, as yet, but sure of recogni- 
tion one day, and when that day comes, of great 
distinction. They are distinguished as it is at carnival 
time, when their exuberant wit, repressed for the rest 
of the year, finds a vent in more or less ingenious 

* What times we live in ! What an irrational central 
power which allows such tremendous energies to run 
to waste ! There are diplomatists in Bohemia quite 

A Prince of Bohemia 73 

capable of overturning Russia's designs, if they but felt 
the power of France at their backs. There are writers, 
administrators, soldiers, and artists in Bohemia ; every 
faculty, every kind of brain is represented there. Bo- 
hemia is a microcosm. If the Czar would buy Bohemia 
for a score of millions and set its population down in 
Odessa — always supposing that they consented to leave 
the asphalt of the boulevards — Odessa would be Paris 
with the year. In Bohemia, you find the flower 
doomed to wither and come to nothing ; the flower of 
the wonderful young manhood of France, so sought after 
by Napoleon and Louis xiv., so neglected for the last 
thirty years by the modern Gerontocracy that is blight- 
ing everything else — that splendid young manhood of 
whom a witness so little prejudiced as Professor Tissot 
wrote, ** On all sides the Emperor employed a younger 
generation in every way worthy of him ; in his councils, 
in the general administration, in negotiations bristling 
with difficulties or full of danger, in the government of 
conquered countries ; and in all places Youth responded 
to his demands upon it. Young men were for Napoleon 
the missi dominici of Charlemagne." 

* The word Bohemia tells you everything. Bohemia 
has nothing and lives upon what it has. Hope is its re- 
ligion; faith (in oneself) its creed ; and charity is supposed 
to be its budget. All these young men are greater than 
their misfortune ; they are under the feet of Fortune, 
yet more than equal to Fate. Always ready to mount 
and ride an if^ witty as 2l feuilleton^ blithe as only those 
can be that are deep in debt and drink deep to match, 
and finally — for here I come to my point — hot lovers, 
and what lovers! Picture to yourself Lovelace, and 
Henri Quatre, and the Regent, and Werther, and Saint- 
Preux, and Rene, and the Marechal de Richelieu — 
think of all these in a single man, and you will have 
some idea of their way of love. What lovers ! Eclectic 
of all things in love, they will serve up a passion to a 

74 A Prince of Bohemia 

woman's order ; their hearts are like a bill of fare in a 
restaurant. Perhaps they have never read Stendhal's 
De PAmoury but unconsciously they put it in practice. 
They have by heart their chapters — I/Ove-Taste, Love- 
Passion, Love-Caprice, Love-Crystallised, and more 
than all, Love-Transient. All is good in their eyes. 
They invented the burlesque axiom, ^^In the sight of 
man, all women are equal." The actual text is more 
vigorously worded, but as in my opinion the spirit is 
&lse, I do not stand nice upon the letter. 

^ My friend, madame, is named Gabriel Jean Anne 
Victor Benjamin George Ferdinand Charles Edward 
Rusticoli, Comte de la ralferine. The Rusticolis came 
to France with Catherine dei Medici, having been 
ousted about that time from their infinitesimal Tuscan 
sovereignty. They are distantly related to the house of 
Este, and connected by marriage with the Guises. On 
the Day of Saint-Bartholomew they slew a goodly num- 
ber of Protestants, and Charles ix. bestowed the hand of 
the heiress of the Comte de la Palferine upon the 
Rusticoli of that time. The Comte, however, being a 
part of the confiscated lands of the Duke of Savoy, was 
repurchased by Henri iv. when that great king so far 
blundered as to restore the fief; and in exchange, the 
Rusticoli — who had borne arms long before the Medici 
bore them, to wit, argent a cross flory a%ure (the cross 
flower-de-luced by letters patent granted by Charles ix.), 
and a count's coronet, with two peasants for supporters 
with the motto in hoc signo vincimus — the Rusticoli, 
I repeat, retained their title, and received a couple 
of offices under the crown with the government of a 

*From the time of the Valois till the reign of 
Richelieu, as it may be called, the Rusticoli played a 
most illustrious part; under Louis xiv. their glory 
waned somewhat, under Louis xv. it went out alto- 
gether. My friend's grandfather wasted all that was 

A Prince of Bohemia 75 

left to the once brilliant house with Mile. Laguerre, 
whom he first discovered, and brought into fashion before 
Bouret's time. Charles Edward's own father was an 
officer without any fortune in 1789. The Revolution 
came to his assistance ; he had the sense to drop his title, 
and became plain Rusticoli. Among other deeds, M. 
Rusticoli married a wife during the war in Italy, a 
Capponi, a goddaughter of the Countess of Albany 
(hence La Palferine's final names). Rusticoli was one of 
the best colonels in the army. The Emperor made him 
a commander of the Legion of Honour and a count. 
His spine was slightly curved, and his son was wont 
to say of him laughingly that he was un comte refait 

^ General Count Rusticoli, for he became a brigadier- 
general at Ratisbon and a general of the division on the 
held of Wagram, died at Vienna almost immediately 
after his promotion, or his name and ability would 
sooner or later have brought him the marshal's baton. 
Under the Restoration he would certainly have repaired 
the fortunes of a great and noble family so brilliant even 
as far back as iioo, centuries before they took the 
French title — for the Rusticoli had given a pope to 
the church and twice revolutionised the kingdom of 
Naples — so illustrious again under the VaTois; so 
dexterous in the da3rs of the Fronde, that obstinate 
Frondeurs though they were, they still existed through 
the reign of Louis xiv. Mazarin favoured them ; 
there was the Tuscan strain' in them still, and he re- 
cognised it. 

* To-day, when Charles Edward de la Palferine's 
name is mentioned, not three persons in a hundred know 
the history of his house. But the Bourbons have 
actually left a Foix-Grailly to live by his easel. 

' Ah ! if you but knew how brilliantly Charles Ed- 
ward accepts his obscure position ! how he scoffs at the 
bourgeois of 1830 ! What Attic salt in his wit ! He 

76 A Prince of Bohemia 

would be the king of Bohemia, if Bohemia would endure 
a king. His verve is inexhaustible. To him we owe a 
map of the country and the names of the seven castles 
which Nodier could not discover.' 

'The one thing wanting in one of the cleverest 
skits of our time,' said the Marquise. 

*You can form your own opinion of La Palferine 
from a few characteristic touches,' continued Nathan. 
'He once came upon a friend of his, a fellow Bohemian, 
involved in a dispute on the boulevard with a bourgeois 
who chose to consider himself affronted. To the 
modern powers that be, Bohemia is insolent in the 
extreme. There was talk of calling one another out. 

' '' One moment," interposed La Palferine, as much 
Lauzun for the occasion as Lauzun himself could have 
been. '' One moment. Monsieur was born, I suppose ? " 

'"What, sir?" 

' " Yes, are you born ? What is your name ? " 


' " Godin, eh ! " exclaimed La Palferine's friend. 

"'One moment, my dear fellow," interrupted La 
Palferine. " There are the Trigaudins. Are you one 
of them ? " 

' Astonishment. 

' " No ? Then you are one of the new dukes of 
Gaeta, I suppose, of imperial creation ? No ? Oh, 
well, how can you expect my friend to cross swords 
with you when he will be secretary of an embassy and 
ambassador some day^ and you will owe him respect ? 
Godin \ the thing is non-existent ! You are a nonen- 
tity, Godin. My friend cannot be expected to beat the 
air ! When one is somebody, one cannot fight with a 
nobody ! Come, my dear fellow — good-day." 

' " My respects to Madame," added the friend. 

' Another day La Palferine was walking with a friend 
who flung his cigar end in the &ce of a passer-by. The 
recipient had the bad taste to resent this. 

'"You have stood your antagonist's fire," said the 

A Prince of Bohemia 77 

young County ^'the witnesses declare that honour is 

* La Palferine owed his tailor a thousand francs, and the 
man instead of going himself sent his assistant to ask for 
the money. The assistant found the unfortunate debtor 
up six pairs of stairs at the back of a yard at the further 
end of the Faubourg du Roule. The room was unfur- 
nished save for a bed (such a bed !], a table, and such a 
table ! La Palferine heard the preposterous demand — 
'^ A demand which I should qualify as illegal," he said 
when he told us the story, ^^ made, as it was, at seven 
o'clock in the morning." 

***Go," he answered, with the gesture and attitude of 
a Mirabeau, ^' tell your master in what condition you 
find me." 

'The assistant apologised and withdrew. La Pal- 
ferine, seeing the young man on the landing, rose in the 
attire celebrated in verse in !Britannicus to add, '^ Re- 
mark the stairs ! Pay particular attention to the stairs ; 
do not forget to tell him about the stairs ! " 

' In every position into which chance has thrown La 
Palferine, he has never &iled to rise to the occasion. 
All that he does is witty and never in bad taste ; always 
and in everything he displays the genius of Rivarol, the 
polished subtlety of the old French noble. It was he 
who told that delicious anecdote of a friend of Laffitte 
the banker. A national fund had been started to give 
back to Laffitte the mansion in which the Revolu- 
tion of 1830 was brewed; and this friend appeared at 
the offices of the fund with, ** Here are five francs, give 
me a hundred sous change ! " — A caricature was made 
of it. — It was once La Palferine*s misfortune, in judicial 
style, to make a young girl a mother. The girl, not a 
very simple innocent, confessed all to her mother, a 
respectable matron, who hurried forthwith to La 
Palferine and asked what he meant to do. 

* ** Why, madam," said he, ** I am neither a surgeon 
.nor a midwife." 

78 A Prince of Bohemia 

^She collapsed, but three or four years later she 
returned to the charge, still persisting in her inquiry, 
" What did La Palferine mean to do ? ^ 

*"Well, madam," returned he, "when the child is 
seven years old, an age at which a t>oy ought to pass out 
of women's hands " — an indication of entire agreement 
on the mother's part — " if the child is really mine " — 
another gesture of assent — ^^ if there is a striking like- 
ness, if he bids fair to be a gentleman, if I can recognise 
in him my turn of mind, and more particularly the 
Rusticoli air ; then, oh — ah ! " — a new movement from 
the matron — '^ on mv word and honour, I will make him 
a cornet of — ^sugar-plums ! " 

^ All this, if you will permit me to make use of the 
phraseology employed by M. Sainte-Beuve for his 
biographies of obscurities — ^all this, I repeat, is the play- 
ful and sprightly yet already somewhat decadent side of 
a strong race. It smacks rather of the Parc-aux-Cerfs 
than of the Hotel de Rambouillet. It is a race of the 
strong rather than of the sweet ; I incline to lay a little 
debauchery to its charge, and more than I should wish 
in brilliant and generous natures; it is gallantry after 
the &shion of the Marechal de Richelieu, high spirits 
and frolic carried rather too far ; perhaps we may see in 
it the outrances of another age, the Eighteenth Century 
pushed to extremes ; it harks back to the Musketeers ; 
it is an exploit stolen from Champcenetz ; nay, such 
light-hearted inconstancy takes us back to the festooned 
and ornate period of the old court of the Valois. In an 
age as moral as the present, we are bound to regard 
audacity of this kind sternly ; still, at the same time 
that " cornet of sugar-plums " may serve to warn young 
girls of the perils of lingering where fancies, more 
charming than chastened, come thickly from the first ; 
on the rosy flowery unguarded slopes, where trespasses 
ripen into errors ftiU of equivocal effervescence, into 
too palpitating issues. The anecdote puts La Palferine's 

A Prince of Bohemia 79 

fenius before you in all its vivacity and completeness. 
[e realises Pascal's entre-deuXyShe comprehends the whole 
scale between tenderness and pitilessness, and, like 
Epaminondas, he is equally great in extremes. And 
no merely so, his epigram stamps the epoch ; the 
accoucheur is a modern innovation. All the refinements 
of modern civilisation are summed up in the phrase. 
It is monumental.' 

^ Look here, my dear Nathan, what ferrago of non- 
sense is this ? ' asked the Marquise in bewilderment. 

^ Madame la Marquise,' returned Nathan, ^ you do 
not know the value of these ^^ precious " phrases ; I am 
talking Sainte-Beuve, the new kind of French. — I 
resume. Walking one day arm in arm with a friend 
along the boulevard, he was accosted by a ferocious 
creditor, who inquired — 

* ** Are you thinking of me, sir ? " 

* " Not the least in the world," answered the Count. 

^ Remark the difficulty of the position. Talleyrand, 
in similar circumstances, had already replied, ^^ You are 
very inquisitive, my dear fellow!" To imitate the 
inimitable great man was out of the question. — La 
Palferine, generous as Buckingham, could not bear to 
be caught empty-handed. One day when he had 
nothing to give a little Savoyard chimney-sweeper, 
he dipped a hand into a barrel of grapes in a grocer's 
doorway and filled the child's cap from it. The little 
one ate away at his grapes ; the grocer began by laugh- 
ing, and ended by holding out his hand. 

' " Oh, fie ! monsieur," said La Palferine, " your left 
hand ought not to know what my right hand doth." 

* With his adventurous courage, he never refuses any 
odds, but there is wit in his bravado. In the Passage de 
I'Opera he chanced to meet a man who had spoken 
slightingly of him, elbowed him as he passed, and then 
turned and jostled him a second time. 

* ** You are very clumsy ! " 

8o A Prince of Bohemia 

^ ^^ On the contrary ; I did it on purpose." 

^ The young man pulled out his card. La Palferine 
dropped it. ^^ It has been carried too long in the 
pocket. Be good enough to give me another. 

^On the ground he received a thrust; blood was 
drawn ; his antagonist wished to stop. 

' ** You are wounded, monsieiu* ! '* 

^ ^^ I disallow the hotu^^ said La Palferine, as coolly as 
if he had been in the fencing saloon ; then as he riposted, 
(sending the point home this time), he added, '^ There 
is the right thrust, monsieur ! " 

^ His antagonist kept his bed for six months. 

^ This, still following on M. Sainte-Beuve's tracks, 
recalls the raffinesj the fine-edged raillery of the best 
days of the monarchy. In this speech you discern an 
untrammelled but drifting life ; a gaiety of imagination 
that deserts us when our first youth is past. The prime 
of the blossom is over, but there remains the dry com- 
pact seed with the germs of life in it, ready against the 
coming winter. Do you not see that these things are 
symptoms of somethmg unsatisfied, of an unrest im- 
possible to analyse, still less to describe, yet not incom- 
prehensible ; a something ready to break out if occasion 
calls into flying upleaping flame ? It is the accidia of 
the cloister ; a trace of sourness, of ferment engendered 
by the enforced stagnation of youthful energies, a vague, 
obscure melancholy.' 

^ That will do,' said the Marquise ; ^ you are giving 
me a mental shower bath.' 

^It is the early afternoon languor. If a man has 
nothing to do, he will sooner get into mischief than do 
nothing at all ; this invariably happens in France. 
Youth at the present day has two sides to it; the 
studious or unappreciated, and the ardent or passionniJ 

' That will do ! ' repeated Mme. de Rochefide, with 
an authoritative gesture. ^You are setting my nerves 
on edge.' 

A Prince of Bohemia 8i 

* To finish my portrait of La Palferine, I hasten to 
make the plunge into the gallant regions of his char- 
acter, or you will not understand the peculiar genius of 
an admirable representative of a certain section of mis- 
chievous youth — youth strong enough, be it said, to laugh 
at the position in which it is put by those in power ; 
shrewd enough to do no work, since work profiteth 
nothing, yet so full of life that it fastens upon pleasure 
— the one thing that cannot be taken away. And 
meanwhile a bourgeois, mercantile, and bigoted policy 
continues to cut off all the sluices through which so 
much aptitude and ability would find an outlet. Poets 
and men of science are not wanted. 

* To give you an idea of the stupidity of the new 
court, I will tell you of something which happened to 
La Palferine. There is a sort of relieving officer on the 
civil list. This functionary one day discovered that La 
Palferine was in dire distress, drew up a report no 
doubt, and brought the descendant of the Rusticolis 
fifty francs by way of alms. La Palferine received the 
visitor with perfect courtesy, and talked of various 
persons at court. 

* " Is it true," he asked, " that Mile. d'Orleans con- 
tributes such and such a sum to this benevolent scheme 
started by her nephew? If so, it is very gracious of 

* Now La Palferine had a servant, a little Savoyard 
aged ten, who waited on him without wages. La Pal- 
ferine called him Father Anchises, and used to say, ^^ I 
have never seen such a mixture of besotted foolishness 
with great intelligence j he would go through fire 
and water for me j he understands everything — and yet 
he cannot grasp the fact that I can do nothing for him." 

* Anchises was despatched to a livery stable with 
instructions to hire a handsome brougham with a man 
in livery behind it. By the time the carriage arrived 
below, La Palferine had skilfully piloted the conversation 


82 A Prince of Bohemia 

to the subject of the functions of his visitor, whom he 
has since called ^^the unmitigated misery man,'' and 
learned the nature of his duties and his stipend. 

^ ^^ Do they allow you a carriage to go about the 
town in this way ? " 

*«Oh! no." 

^ At that La Palferine and a friend who happened to 
be with him went downstairs with the poor soul, and 
insisted on putting him into the carriage. It was rain- 
ing in torrents. La Palferine had thought of every thing. 
He offered to drive the official to the next house on his 
list ; and when the almoner came down again, he found 
the carriage waiting for him at the door. The man in 
livery handed him a note written in pencil : — 

' " The carriage has been engaged for three days. 
Count Rusticoli de la Palferine is too happy to associate 
himself with Court charities by lending wmgs to Royal 

^ La Palferine now calls the civil list the uncivil list. 

* He was once passionately loved by a lady of some- 
what light conduct. Antonia lived in the Rue du 
Helder ; she had seen and been seen to some extent, but 
at the time of her acquaintance with La Palferine she 
had not yet "an establishment." Antonia was not 
wanting in the insolence of old days, now degenerating 
into rudeness among women of her class. After a fort- 
night of unmixed bliss, she was compelled, in the interest 
of her civil list, to return to a less exclusive system ; and 
La Palferine, discovering a certain lack of sincerity in 
her dealings with him, sent Madam Antonia a note 
which made her famous. 

* " Madame, — Your conduct causes me much surprise 
and no less distress. Not content with rending my heart 
with your disdain, you have been so little thoughtful as 
to retain a toothbrush, which my means will not permit 

A Prince of Bohemia 83 

me to replace, my estates being mortgaged beyond their 

' " Adieu, too fair and too ungrateful friend ! May we 
meet again in a better world. 

* " Charles Edward." 

' Assuredly (to avail ourselves yet further of Sainte- 
Beuve's Babylonish dialect), this hr outpasses the 
raillery of Sterne's Sentimental Journey ; it might be 
Scarron without his grossness. Nay, I do not know 
but that Moliere in his lighter mood would not have 
said of it, as of Cyrano de Bergerac's best — " This is 
mine." Richelieu himself was not more complete when 
he wrote to the princess waiting for him in the Palais 
Royal — ** Stay there, my queen, to charm the scullion 
lads." At the same time, Charles Edward's humour is 
less biting. I am not sure that this kind of wit was 
known among the Greeks and Romans. Plato, possibly, 
upon a closer inspection, approaches it, but from the 
austere and musical side ' 

* No more of that jargon,' the Marquise broke in, * in 
print it may be endurable ; but to have it grating upon 
my ears is a punishment which I do not in the least 

* He first met Claudine on this wise,' continued 
Nathan. * It was one of the unfilled days, when Youth 
is a burden to itself; days when Youth, reduced by the 
overweening presumption of Age to a condition of 
potential energy and dejection, emerges therefrom (like 
Blondet under the Restoration), either to get into mis- 
chief or to set about some colossal piece of buffoonery, 
half excused by the very audacity of its conception. La 
Palferine was sauntering, cane in hand, up and down the 
pavement between the Rue de Grammont and the Rue 
de Richelieu, when in the distance he descried a woman 
too elegantly dressed, covered, as he phrased it, with a 
great deal of portable property, too expensive and too 

84 A Prinoe of Boheaua 

cafcktf hr worn for its owner to be otker tkm a princess 
of die Court or of die stage, it was not cuf at first to 
saf which. But after Julj 1830, in kis o|minnj there 
if no mistaking the iiidicatioos---the princess cut onlj 
be a princess of the stage. 

' The Count came up and walked by her side as if she 
had given him an assignation. He followed her with a 
courteous persif tence, a persistence in good taste, giving 
the lady from time to time, and alwajs at the right 
moment, an autboriuti ve glance, which compdled her to 
submit to bis escort. Anjbodjr but La PalAerine would 
have been frozen by hb reception, and disconcerted 
by the lady's first efforts to rid herself of her cavalier, by 
her chilly air, her curt speeches ; but no gravity, with 
all the will in the world, could hold out k>ng against La 
Palferine's jesting replies. The fair stranger went into 
her milliner's shop. Charles Edward followed, took a 
seat, and gave his opinions and advice like a man that 
meant to pay. This coolness disturbed the lady, she 
went out. 

^ On the stairs she spoke to her persecutor. 

^ ^^ Monsieur, I am about to call upon one of my hus- 
band's relatives, an elderly lady, Mme. de Bonialot ' 

^ ^^ Ah ! Mme. de Bonfalot, charmed, I am sure. I 
am going there." 

^ The pair accordingly went. Charles Edward came 
in with the lady, every one believed that she had brought 
him with her. He took part in the conversation, was 
lavish of his polished and brilliant wit. The visit 
lengthened out. This was not what he wanted. 

< << Madame," he said, addressing the fair stranger, ^^ do 
not forget that your husband is waiting for us, and only 
allowed us a quarter of an hour." 

^ Taken aback by such boldness (which, as you know, 
is never displeasing to you women), led captive by the 
conqueror's glance, by the astute yet candid air which 
Charles Edward can assume when he chooses, the lady 

A Prince of Bohemia 85 

rose, took the arm of her self-constituted escort, and 
went downstairs, but on the threshold she stopped to 
speak to him. 

* " Monsieur, I like a joke ^" 

« " And so do I." 

^ She laughed. 

* " But this may turn to earnest," he added ; " it only 
rests with you. I am the Comte de la Palferine, and I 
am delighted that it is in my power to lay my heart and 
my fortune at your feet." 

^ La Palferine was at that time twenty-two years old. 
(This happened in 1834.) Luckily for him, he was 
^hionably dressed. I can paint his portrait for you in 
a few words. He was the living image of Louis xiii., 
with the same white forehead and gracious outline of 
the temples, the same olive skin (that Italian olive tint 
which turns white where the light falls on it), the 
brown hair worn rather long, the black " royale," the 
grave and melancholy expression, for La Palferine's 
character and exterior were amazingly at variance. 

^ At the sound of the name, and the sight of its owner, 
something like a quiver thrilled through Claudine. La 
Palferine saw the vibration, and shot a glance at her 
out of the dark depths of almond-shaped eyes with 
purpled lids, and those faint lines about them which tell 
of pleasures as costly as painful fatigue. With those 
eyes upon her, she said — '* Your address ? " 

< " What want of address ! " 

* " Oh, pshaw ! " she said, smiling. " A bird on the 
bough ? " 

**' Good-bye, madame, you are such a woman as I 
seek, but my fortune is ftir from equalling my desire " 

* He bowed, and there and then left her. Two days 
later, by one of the strange chances that can only happen 
in Paris, he had betaken himself to a money-lending 
wardrobe dealer to sell such of his clothing as he could 
spare* He was just receiving the price with an uneasy 

86 A Prince of Bohemia 

air, after long chaffering, when the stranger lady passed 
and recognised him. 

*"Once for all," cried he to the bewildered ward- 
robe dealer, ^^ I itell you, I am not going to take your 
trumpet ! " 

^ He pointed to a huge, much-dinted musical instru- 
ment, hanging up outside against a background of 
uniforms, civil and military* Then, proudly and im- 
petuously, he followed the lady. 

* From that great day of the trumpet these two under- 
stood one another to admiration. Charles Edward's 
ideas on the subject of love are as sound as possible. 
According to him, a man cannot love twice, there is but 
one love in his lifetime, but that love is a deep and 
shoreless sea. It may break in upon him at any 
time, as the grace of God found St. Paul ^ and a man 
may live sixty years and never know love. Perhaps, 
to quote Heine's superb phrase, it is ** the secret malady 
of the heart" — a sense of the Infinite that there is 
within us, together with the revelation of the ideal 
Beauty in its visible form. This Love, in short, com- 
prehends both the creature and creation. But so long 
as there is no question of this great poetical conception, 
the loves that cannot last can only be taken lightly, 
as if they were in a manner snatches of song compared 
with Love the epic. 

* To Charles Edward the adventure brought neither 
the thunderbolt signal of love's coming, nor yet that 
gradual revelation of an inward fairness which draws 
two natures by degrees more and more strongly each to 
each. For there are but two ways of love — love at first 
sight, doubtless akin to the Highland ^Second sight," 
and that slow fusion of two natures which realises 
Plato's ** man- woman." But if Charles Edward did not 
love, he was loved to distraction. Claudine found love 
made complete, body and soul ; in her, in short. La Pal- 
ferine awakened the one passion of her life; while 

A Prince of Bohemia 87 

for him Claudine was only a most charming mistress. 
The Devil himself, a most potent magician certainly, 
with all hell at his back, could never have changed the 
natures of these two unequal fires, I dare affirm that 
Claudine not unfrequently bored Charles Edward.' 

* " Stale fish and the woman you do not love are only 
fit to fling out of the window after three days,'* he 
used to say. 

* In Bohemia there is little secrecy observed over these 
affairs. La Palferine used to talk a good deal of Claudine ; 
but, at the same time, none of us saw her, nor so much 
as knew her name. For us Claudine was almost a 
mythical personage. All of us acted in the same way, 
reconciling the requirements of our common life with 
the rules of good taste. Claudine, Hortense, the 
Baroness, the Bourgeoise, the Empress, the Spaniard, 
the Lioness, — these were cryptic titles which permitted 
us to pour out our joys, our cares, vexations, and hopes, 
and to communicate our discoveries. Further, none of 
us went. It has been known, in Bohemia, that chance 
discovered the identity of the fair unknown ; and at 
once, as by tacit convention, not one of us spoke of her 
again. This fact may show how far youth possesses a 
sense of true delicacy. How admirably certain natures 
of a finer clay know the limit line where jest must end, 
and all that host of things French covered by the slang 
word blague^ 3, word which will shortly be cast out of 
the language (let us hope), and yet it is the only one 
which conveys an idea of the spirit of Bohemia. 

^So we often used to joke about Claudine and the 
Count — " What are you making of Claudine ? " — 
" How is Claudine ? " — ** Toujours Claudine ? " sung to 
the air of Toujours Gessler.^ 

* " I wish you all such a mistress, for all the harm I 
wish you," La Palferine began one day. "No grey- 
bound, no basset-dog, no poodle can match her in 
gentleness, submissiveness, and complete tenderntss. 

88 A Prince of Bohemia 

There are times when I reproach myself, when I take 
mvself to task for my hard heart. Claudine obeys with 
saintly sweetness. She comes to me, I tell her to go, 
she goes, she does not even cry till she is out in the 
courtyard. I refuse to see her for a whole week at a time. 
I tell her to come at such an hour on Tuesday ; and be 
it midnight or six o'clock in the morning, ten o'clock, 
five o'clock, breakfast time, dinner time, bed time, any 
particularly inconvenient hour in the day — ^she will 
come, punctual to the minute, beautiful, beautifully 
dressed, and enchanting. And she is a married woman, 
with all the complications and duties of a household. 
The fibs that she must invent, the reasons she must find 
for conforming to niy whims would tax the ingenuity of 
some of us ! . . . Claudine never wearies ; you can 
always count upon her. It is not love, I tell her, it is 
in&tuation. She writes to me every day ; I do not read 
her letters ; she found that out, but still she writes. See 
here ; there are two hundred letters in this casket. She 
begs me to wipe my razors on one of her letters every 
day, and I punctually do so. She thinks, and rightly, 
that the sight of her handwriting will put me in mind of 

^ La Palferine was dressing as he told us this. I took 
up the letter which he was about to put to this use, read 
it, and kept it, as he did not ask to have it back. Here 
it is. I looked for it, and found it as I promised. 

*' Monday {MUnigAt), 

* *^ Well, my dear, are you satisfied with me ? I did 
not even ask for your hand, yet you might easily have 
given it to me, and I longed so much to hold it to my 
heart, to my lips. No, I did not ask, I am so afraid of 
displeasing you. Do you know one thing ? Though 
I am cruelly sure that anything I do is a matter of 
perfect indifference to you, I am none the less extremely 
timid in my conduct : the woman that belongs to you^ 

A Prince of Bohemia 89 

whatever her title to call herself yours, must not incur 
so much as the shadow of blame. In so far as love 
comes from the angels in heaven, from whom there are 
no secrets hid, my love is as pure as the purest ; wher- 
ever I am I feel that I am in your presence, and I try 
to do you honour. 

'"All that you said about my manner of dress impressed 
me very much ; I began to understand how far above 
others are those that come of a noble race. There was 
still something of the opera girl in my gowns, in my 
way of dressing my hair. In a moment I saw the dis- 
tance between me and good taste. Next time you shall 
receive a duchess, you shall not know me again ! Ah ! 
how good you have been to your Claudine ! How many 
and many a time I have thanked you for telling me 
these things ! What interest lay in those few words ! 
You had taken thought for that thing belonging to 
you called Claudine ? This imbecile would never have 
opened my eyes ; he thinks that everything I do is right ; 
and besides, he is much too humdrum, too matter-of- 
&ct to have any feeling for the beautiful. 

*" Tuesday is very slow of coming for my impatient 
mind ! On Tuesday I shall be with you for several 
hours. Ah ! when it comes I will try to think that the 
hours are months, that it will be so always. I am living 
in hope of that morning now, as I shall live upon the 
memory of it afterwards. Hope is memory that craves ; 
and recollection, memory sated. What a beautiful life 
within life thought makes for us in this way ! 

* "Sometimes I dream of inventing new ways of ten- 
derness all my own, a secret which no other woman 
shall guess. A cold sweat breaks out over me at the 
thought that something may happen to prevent this 
meeting. Oh, I would break with him for good, if 
need was, but nothing here could possibly interfere ; it 
would be from your side. Perhaps you may decide to 
go out, perhaps to go to see some other woman. Oh ! 

90 A Prince of Bohemia 

spare me this Tuesday for pity's sake. If you take it 
from me, Charles, you do not know what he will suffer ; 
I should drive him wild. But even if you do not want 
me, if you are going out, let me come, all the same, to be 
with you while you dress ; only to see you, I ask no more 
than that ; only to show you that I love you without a 
thought of self. 

*** Since you gave me leave to love you, for you gave 
me leave, since I am yours ; since that day I loved and 
love you with the whole strength of my soul ; and I 
shall love you for ever, for once having loved youy no 
one could, no one ought to love another. And, you see, 
when those eyes that ask nothing but to see you are 
upon you, you will feel that in your Claudine there is a 
something divine, called into existence by you. 

* " Alas ! with you I can never play the coquette. I 
am like a mother with her child ; I endure anything 
from you ; I, that was once so imperious and proud. I 
have made dukes and princes fetch and carry for me ; 
aides de camp, worth more than all the court of Charles x. 
put together, have done my errands, yet I am treating 
you as my spoilt child. But where is the use of 
coquetry ? It would be pure waste. And yet, mon- 
sieur, for want of coquetry I shall never inspire love in 
you. I know it j I feel it ; yet I do as before, feeling a 
power that I cannot withstand, thinking that this utter 
self-surrender will win me the sentiment innate in all 
men (so he tells me) for the thing that belongs to 

" Wednesday, 

* *^ Ah ! how darkly sadness entered my heart yester- 
day when I found that I must give up the joy of seeing 
you. One single thought held me back from the arms 
of Death ! — It was thy will ! To stay away was to do 
thy will, to obey an order from thee. Oh ! Charles, I 
was so pretty ; I looked a lovelier woman for you than 

A Prince of Bohemia 91 

that beautiful German princess whom you gave me for 
an example, whom I have studied at the Opera. And 
yet — you might have thought that I had overstepped the 
limits of my nature. You have left me no confidence 
in myself; perhaps I am plain after all. Oh ! I loathe 
myself, I dream of my radiant Charles Edward, and. 
my brain turns. I shall go mad, I know I shall. Do 
not laugh, do not talk to me of the fickleness of women. 
If we are inconstant, you are strangely capricious. You 
take away the hours of love that made a poor creature's 
happiness for ten whole days ; the hours on which she 
drew to be charming and kind to all that came to see 
her ! After all, you were the source of my kindness to 
him-y you do not know what pain you give him. I 
wonder what I must do to keep you, or simply to keep 
the right to be yours sometimes. . . . When I think 
that you never would come here to me ! . . . With what 
delicious emotion I would wait upon you ! — There are 
other women more favoured than I. There are women 
to whom you say, *I love you.' To me you have 
never said more than * You are a good girl.' Certain 
speeches of yours, though you do not know it, gnaw 
at my heart. Clever men sometimes ask me what I am 
thinking. ... I am thinking of my self-abasement — the 
prostration of the poorest outcast in the presence of the 

' There are still three more pages, you see. La Pal- 
ferine allowed me to take the letter, with the traces of 
tears that still seemed hot upon it ! Here was proof 
of the truth of his story. Marcas, a shy man enough 
with women, was in ecstasies over a second which he read 
in his corner before lighting his pipe with it, 

*" Why, any woman in love will write that sort of 
thing ! " cried La Palferine. " Love gives all women 
intelligence and style, which proves that here in France 
style proceeds from the matter and not from the words. 

92 A Prince of Bohemia 

See now bow well this is thought out, how dear-headed 
sentiment is " — and with that he read us another letter, 
hr superior to the artificial and laboured productions 
which we novelists write. 

^ One day poor Claudine heard that La Palferine was 
in a critical position ; it was a question of meeting a bill 
of exchange. An unlucky idea occurred to her ; she put 
a tolerably large sum in gold into an exquisitely em- 
broidered purse and went to him. 

<<< Who has taught you to be so bold as to meddle 
with my household affairs ? " La Palferine cried angrily. 
^^Mend my socks and work slippers for me, if it amuses 

you. So ! you will play the duchess, and you turn 

the story of Danae against the aristocracy." 

^ He emptied the purse into his hand as he spoke, and 
made as though he would fling the money in her face. 
Claudine, in her terror, did not guess that he was joking ; 
she shrank back, stumbled over a chair, and fell with her 
head against the corner of the marble chinmey-piece. 
She thought she should have died. When she could 
speak, poor woman, as she lay on the bed, all that she 
said was, " I deserved it, Charles ! " 

^For a moment La Palferine was in despair; his 
anguish revived Claudine. She rejoiced in the mishap ; 
she took advantage of her suflFering to compel La Pal- 
ferine to take the money and release him from an 
awkward position. Then followed a variation on La 
Fontaine's fable, in which a man blesses the thieves 
that brought him a sudden impulse of tenderness from his 
wife. And while we are upon this subject, another 
saying will paint the man for you. 

^Claudine went home again, made up some kind of 
tale as best she could to account for her bruised fore- 
bead, and fell dangerously ill. An abscess formed in the 
head. The doctor — Bianchon, I believe — ^yes, it was 
Bianchon — wanted to cut off her hair. The Duchesse 
de Berri's hair is not more beautiful than Claudine's ; 

A Prince of Bohemia 93 

she would not hear of it, she told Bianchon in confidence 
that she could not allow it to be cut without leave from 
the Comte de la Palferine. Bianchon went to Charles 
Edward. Charles Edward heard him with much 
seriousness. The doctor had explained the case at length, 
and showed that it was absolutely necessary to sacrifice 
the hair to ensure the success of the operation. 

* " Cut off Claudine's hair ! " cried he in peremptory 
tones. " No. I would sooner lose her." ' 

^ Even now, after a lapse of four years, Bianchon still 
quotes that speech ; we have laughed over it for half an 
hour together. Ckudine, informed of the verdict, saw 
in it a proof of affection ; she felt sure that she was 
loved. In the face of her weeping family, with her 
husband on his knees, she was inexorable. She kept her 
hair. The strength that came with the belief that she 
was loved came to her aid, the operation succeeded 
perfectly. There are stirrings of the inner life which 
throw all the calculations of surgery into disorder and 
baffle the laws of medical science. 

^ Claudine wrote a delicious letter to La Palferine, a 
letter in which the orthography was doubtful and the 
punctuation all to seek, to tell him of the happy result 
of the operation, and to add that Love was wiser than all 
the sciences.' 

*"Now," said La Palferine one day, "what am I to 
do to get rid of Claudine ? " 

^ " Why, she is not at all troublesome ; she leaves you 
master ofyour actions," objected we. 

* " That is true," returned La Palferine, ** but I do not 
choose that anything shall slip into my life without my 

^ From that day he set himself to torment Claudine. 
It seemed that he held the bourgeoise, the nobody, in 
utter horror ; nothing would satisfy him but a woman 
with a title. Claudine, it was true, had made progress ; 
she had learned to dress as well as the best-dressed 

94 A Prince of Bohemia 

women of the Faubourg Saint-Germain ; she had freed 
her bearing of unhallowed traces ; she walked with a 
chastened, inimitable grace ; but this was not enough. 
This praise of her enabled Claudine to swallow down the 

* But one dajr La Palferine said, " If you wish to be 
the mistress of one La Palferine, poor, penniless, and 
without prospects as he is, vou ought at least to represent 
him worthily. You should have a carriage and liveried 
sen'ants and a title. Give me all the gratifications of 
vanity that will never be mine in my own person. The 
woman whom I honour with my regard ought never to 
go on foot ; if she is bespattered with mud, I suffer. 
That is how I am made. If she is mine, she must be 
admired of all Paris. All Paris shall envy me my good 
fortune. If some little whipper-snapper seeing a 
brilliant countess pass in her brilliant carriage shall say 
to himself, ^ Who can call such a divinity his ? ' and 
grow thoughtful — why, it will double my pleasure." 

^ La Palferine owned to us that he flung this pro- 
gramme at Claudine*s head simply to rid himself of her. 
As a result he was stupefied with astonishment for the 
first and probably the only time in his life. 

^^ Dear," she said, and there was a ring in her voice 
that betrayed the^reat agitation which shook her whole 
being, ^Mt is well. All this shall be done, or I will 

^ She let fall a few happy tears on his hand as she 
kissed it. 

*"You have told me what I must do to be your 
mistress still," she added ; ^^ I am glad." 

* " And then " (La Palferine told us) " she went out 
with a little coquettish gesture like a woman that has 
had her way. As she stood in my garret doorway, tall 
and proud, she seemed to reach the stature of an antique 

^ All this should sufficiently explain the manners and 

A Prince of Bohemia 95 

customs of the Bohemia in which this young condottiere 
is one of the most brilliant figures/ Nathan continued 
after a pause. ^ Now it so happened that I discovered 
Claudine's identity, and could understand the appalling 
truth of one line which you perhaps overlooked in that 
letter of hers. It was on this wise.' 

The Marquise, too thoughtful now for laughter, bade 
Nathan * Go on,' in a tone that told him plainly how 
deeply she had been impressed by these strange things, 
and even more plainly how much she was interested in 
La Palferine. 

^In 1829, one of the most influential, steady, and 
clever of dramatic writers was du Bruel. His real name 
is unknown to the public, on the playbills he is de 
Cursy. Under the Restoration he had a place in the 
Civil Service; and being really attached to the elder 
branch, he sent in his resignation bravely in 1830, and 
ever since has written twice as many plays to fill the 
deficit in his budget made by his noble conduct. At 
that time du Bruel was forty years old ; you know the 
story of his life. Like many of his brethren, he bore 
a stage dancer an affection hard to explain, but well 
known in the whole world of letters. The woman, as 
you know, was TuUia, one of the premiers sujets of the 
Academie Royale de Musique. Tullia is merely a 
pseudonym like du Bruel's name of de Cursy. 

* For the ten years between 181 7 and 1827 Tullia was 
in her glory on the heights of the stage of the Opera. 
With more beauty than education, a mediocre dancer 
with rather more sense than most of her class, she took 
no part in the virtuous reforms which ruined the corps de 
ballet ; she continued the Guimard dynasty. She owed 
her ascendency, moreover, to various well-known pro- 
tectors, to the Due de Rhetore (the Due de Chaulieu's 
eldest son), to the influence of a famous Superintendent 
of Fine Arts, and sundry diplomatists and rich foreigners. 
During her apogee she had a neat little house in the 

96 A Prince of Bohemia 

Rue Chauchat, and lived as Opera nymphs used to live 
in the old days. Du Bruel was smitten with her about 
the time when the Duke's fancy came to an end in 1823. 
Being a mere subordinate in the Civil Service, du Bruel 
tolerated the Superintendent of Fine Arts, believing that 
he himself was really preferred. After six years this con- 
nection was almost a marriage. Tullia has always been 
very careful to say nothing of her family ^ we have a 
vague idea that she comes from Nanterre. One of her 
uncles, formerly a simple bricklayer or carpenter, is now, 
it is said, a very rich contractor, thanks to her influence 
and generous loans. This fact leaked out through du 
Bruel. He happened to say that Tullia would inherit a 
fine fortune sooner or later. The contractor was a 
bachelor ; he had a weakness for the niece to whom he 
is indebted. 

* " He is not clever enough to be ungrateful," said she. 

*In 1829 Tullia retired from the stage of her own 
accord. At the age of thirty she saw that she was 
growing somewhat stouter, and she had tried panto- 
mime without success. Her whole art consisted in the 
trick of raising her skirts, after Noblet's manner, in a 
pirouette which inflated them balloon-fashion and ex- 
hibited the smallest possible quantity of clothing to the 
pit. The aged Vestris had told her at the very begin- 
ning that this tempSj well executed by a fine woman, is 
worth all the art imaginable. It is the chest-note C of 
dancing. For which reason, he said, the very greatest 
dancers — Camargo, Guimard, and Taglioni, all of them 
thin, brown, and plain — could only redeem their physical 
defects by their genius. Tullia, still in the height 
of her glory, retired before younger and cleverer 
dancers ; she did wisely. She was an aristocrat ; 
she had scarcely stooped below the noblesse in her 
liaisons ; she declined to dip her ankles in the troubled 
waters of July. Insolent and beautifid as she was, 
Qaudine possessed handsome souvenirs, but very little 

A Prince of Bohemia 97 

ready money ; still, her jewels were magnificent, and she 
had as fine furniture as any one in Paris. 

^ On quitting the stage when she, forgotten to-day, 
was yet in the height of her fame, one thought possessed 
her — ^she meant du Bruel to marry her ; and at the time 
of this story, you must understand that the marriage had 
taken place, but was kept a secret. How do women of 
her class contrive to make a man marry them after seven 
or eight years of intimacy ? What springs do they 
touch ? What machinery do they set in motion ? 
But, however comical such domestic dramas may be, we 
are not now concerned with them. Du Bruel was 
secretly married ; the thing was done. 

* Cursy before his marriage was supposed to be a jolly 
companion; now and again he stayed out all night, 
and to some extent led the life of a Bohemian ; he 
would unbend at a supper-party. He went out to all 
appearance to a rehearsal at the Opera-Comique, and 
found himself in some unaccountable way at Dieppe, 
or Baden, or Saint-Germain ; he gave dinners, led the 
Titanic diriftless life of artists, journalists, and writers ; 
levied his tribute on all the greenrooms of Paris ; and, 
in short, was one of us. Finot, Lousteau, du Tillet, 
Desroches, Bixiou, Blondet, Couture, and des Lupeaulx 
tolerated him in spite of his pedantic manner and 
ponderous official attitude. But once married, Tullia 
made a slave of du Bruel. There was no help for it. 
He was in love with Tullia, poor devil. 

*" Tullia*' (so he said) **had left the stage to be his 
alone, to be a good and charming wife." And some- 
bow Tullia managed to induce the most Puritanical 
members of du Bruel's family to accept her. From the 
very first, before any one suspected her motives, she 
assiduously visited old Mme. de Bonfalot, who bored her 
horribly; she made handsome presents to mean old 
Mme. de Chisse, du Bruel's great-aunt; she spent a 
summer with the latter lady, and never missed a single 


98 A Prince of Bohemia 

mass. She even went to confession, received absolution, 
and took the sacrament ; but this, you must remember, 
was in the country, and under the aunt's eyes. 

^ ^^ I shall have real aunts now, do you understand ? ^ 
she said to us when she came back in the winter. 

^She was so delighted with her respectability, so glad 
to renounce her independence, that she found means to 
compass her end. She flattered the old people. She 
went on foot every day to sit for a couple of hours with 
Mme. du Bruel the elder while that lady was ill — 
a Maintenon's stratagem which amazed du Bruel. And 
he admired his wife without criticism ; he was so fast in 
the toik already that he did not feel his bonds. 

^ Claudine succeeded in making him understand that 
only under the elastic system of a bourgeois government, 
only at the bourgeois court of the Citizen-King, could 
a TuUia, now metamorphosed into a Mme. du Bruel, be 
accepted in the society which her good sense prevented 
her from attempting to enter. Mme. de Bonfidot, 
Mme. de Chisse, and Mme. du Bruel received her ; she 
was satisfied. She took up the position of a well-con- 
ducted, simple, and virtuous woman, and never acted out 
of character. In three years' time she was introduced 
to the friends of these ladies. 

^^^And still I cannot persuade myself that yoimg 
Mme. du Bruel used to display her ankles, and the rest, 
to all Paris, with the light of a hundred gas-jets 
pouring upon her," Mme. Anselme Popinot remarked 

*From this point of view, July 1830 inaugurated an 
era not unlike the time of the Empire, when a waiting 
woman was received at Court in the person of Mme. 
Garat, a chief-justice's " lady." Tullia had completely 
broken, as you may guess, with all her old associates ; of 
her former acquaintances, she only recognised those 
who could not compromise her. At the time of her 
marriage she had taken a very charming little hotel 

A Prince of Bohemia 99 

between a court and a garden, lavishing money on 
it with wild extravagance and putting the best part of 
her furniture and du Bruel's into it. Everything that she 
thought common or ordinary was sold. To find any- 
thing comparable to her sparkling splendour, you could 
only look back to the days when a Sophie Arnould, a 
Guimard, or a Duthe, in all her glory, squandered the 
fortunes of princes. 

*How hr did this sumptuous existence affect du 
Bniel? It is a delicate question to ask, and a still 
more delicate one to answer. A single incident will 
suffice to give you an idea of TuUia's crotchets. Her 
bed-spread of Brussels lace was worth ten thousand 
francs. A famous actress had another like it. As soon 
as Claudine heard this, she allowed her cat, a splendid 
Angora, to sleep on the bed. That trait gives you the 
woman. Du Bruel dared not say a word; he was 
ordered to spread abroad that challenge in luxury, so 
that it might reach the other. Tullia was very fond of 
this gift from the Due de Rhetore ; but one day, five 
years after her marriage, she played with her cat to such 
purpose that the coverlet — furbelows, flounces, and all — 
was torn to shreds, and replaced by a sensible quilt, a quilt 
that was a quilt, and not a symptom of the peculiar 
form of insanity which drives these women to make up 
by an insensate luxury for the childish days when 
they lived on raw apples, to quote the expression of a 
journalist. The day when the bed-spread was torn to 
tatters marked a new epoch in her married life. 

^Cursy was remarkable for his ferocious industry. 
Nobody suspects the source to which Paris owes the 
patch-and-powder eighteenth century vaudevilles that 
flooded the stage. Those thousand-and-one vaudevilles, 
which raised such an outcry among the feuilletonist es^ 
were written at Mme. du Bruel's express desire. She 
insisted that her husband should purchase the hotel 
on which she had spent so much, where she had 

loo A Prince of Bohemia 

housed five hundred thousand francs' worth of furni- 
ture. Wherefore? Tullia never enters into explana- 
tions; she understands the sovereign woman's reason 
to admiration. 

* ** People made a good deal of fun of Cursy,** said 
she ; ^^ but, as a matter of fact, he found this house in 
the eighteenth century rouge-box, powder, pufFs, and 
spaneles. He would never have thought of it but for 
me,' she added, burying herself in her cushions in her 
fireside corner. 

^ She delivered herself thus on her return from a first 
night. Du Bruel's piece had succeeded, and she fore- 
saw an avalanche of criticisms. Tullia had her At 
Homes. Every Monday she ga^e a tea-party; her 
society was as select as might be, and she neglected 
nothing that could make her house pleasant. There 
was bouillotte in one room, conversation in another, 
and sometimes a concert (always short) in the large 
drawing-room. None but the most eminent artists per- 
formed in her house. Tullia had so much good sense, 
that she attained to the most exquisite tact, and herein, 
in all probability, lay the secret of her ascendency over 
du Bruel ; at any rate, he loved her with the love which 
use and wont at length makes indispensable to life. 
Every day adds another thread to the strong, irresistible, 
intangible web, which enmeshes the most delicate fancies, 
takes captive every most transient mood, and binding 
them together, holds a man captive hand and foot, heart 
and head. 

* Tullia knew Cursy well ; she knew every weak point 
in his armour, knew also how to heal his wounds. 

* A passion of this kind is inscrutable for any observer, 
even for a man who prides himself, as I do, on a certain 
expertness. It is everywhere unfathomable; the dark 
depths in it are darker than in any other mystery ; the 
colours confused even in the highest lights. 

^ Cursy was an old playwright, jaded by the life of the 

A Prince of Bohemia loi 

theatrical world. He liked comfort ; he liked a luxuri- 
ous, affluent, easy existence ; he enjoyed being a king in 
his own house ; he liked to be host to a party of men of 
letters in a hotel resplendent with royal luxury, with 
carefully chosen works of art shining in the setting. 
Tullia allowed du Bruel to enthrone himself amid the 
tribe; there were plenty of journalists .whom it was easy 
enough to catch and ensnare ; and, thanks to her evening 
parties and a well-timed loan here and there, Cursy was 
not attacked too seriously — his plays succeeded. For 
these reasons he would not have separated from Tullia 
for an empire. If she had been unfaithful, he would 
probably have passed it over, on condition that none of 
his accustomed joys should be retrenched ; yet, strange 
to say, Tullia caused him no twinges on this account. 
No fancy was laid to her charge ; if there had been any, 
she certainly had been very careful of appearances. 

* ** My dear fellow," du Bruel would say, laying down 
the law to us on the boulevard, ^' there is nothing like 
one of these women who have sown their wild oats 
and got over their passions. Such women as Claudine 
have lived their bachelor life ; they have been over head 
and ears in pleasure, and make the most adorable 
wives that could be wished ; they have nothing to learn, 
they are formed, they are not in the least prudish ; 
they are well broken in, and indulgent. So I strongly 
recommend everybody to take the ^ remains of a racer.' 
I am the most fortunate man on earth." 

* Du Bruel said this to me himself with Bixiou there 
to hear it. 

* *' My dear fellow," said the caricaturist, " perhaps he 
is right to be in the wrong." 

^ About a week afterwards, du Bruel asked us to dine 
with him one Tuesday. That morning I went to see 
him on a piece of theatrical business, a case submitted to 
us for arbitration by the commission of dramatic authors. 
We were obliged to go out again ; but before we started 


1 02 A Prince of Bohemia 

he went to Claudine's room, knocked, as he alwajrs does, 
and asked for leave to enter. 

* " We live in the grand style,*' said he, smiling ; ** wc 
are free. Each is independent." 

* We were admitted. Du Bruel spoke to Claudine. 
^ I have asked a few people to dinner to-day '' 

* ** Just like you ! *' cried she. ** You ask people 
without speaking to me; I count for nothing here. — 
Now" (taking me as arbitrator by a glancel ^*I ask 

ou yourself. When a man has been so foolish as to 
ire with a woman of my sort ; for, after all, I was an 
opera dancer — ^yes, I ought always to remember that, if 
other people are to forget it — weU, under those circum- 
stances, a clever man seeking to raise his wife in public 
opinion would do his best to impose lier upon the world 
as a remarkable woman, to justify the step he had taken 
by acknowledging that in some ways she was something 
more than ordinary women. The best way of compel- 
ling respect from others is to pay respect to her at 
home, and to leave her absolute mistress of the house. 
Well, and yet it is enough to waken one's vanity to see 
how frightened he is of seeming to listen to me. I 
must be in the right ten times over if he concedes a 
single point." 

* (Emphatic negative gestures from du Bruel at every 
other word.) 

* ** Oh, yes, yes," she continued quickly, in answer to 
this mute dissent. *' I know all about it, du Bruel, my 
dear, I that have been like a queen in my house all my life 
till I married you. My wishes were guessed, fulfilled, and 
more than fulfilled. — After all, I am thirty-five, and at 
five-and-thirty a woman cannot expect to be loved. Ah, 
if I were a girl of sixteen, if I had not lost something 
that is dearly bought at the Opera, what attention you 
would pay me, M. du Bruel ! I feel the most supreme 
contempt for men who boast that they can love and 
grow careless and neglectful in little things as time 

A Prince of Bohemia 103 

E'ows on. You are short and insignificant, you see, du 
ruel ; you love to torment a woman ; it is your only 
way of showing your strength. A Napoleon is ready to 
be swayed by the woman he loves ; he loses nothing by 
it ; but as for such as you, you believe that you are 
nothing apparently, you do not wish to be ruled. — Five- 
and-thirty, my dear boy," she continued, turning to 
me, **that is the clue to the riddle. — ' No,* does he say 
again ? — You know quite well that I am thirty-seven. 
I am very sorry, but just ask your friends to dine at the 
Rocher de Cancale. I could have them here, but I will 
not ; they shall not come. And then perhaps my poor 
little monologue may engrave that salutary maxim, 
* Each is master at home,' upon your memory. That is 
our charter," she added, laughing, with a return of the 
opera girl's giddiness and caprice. 

* ** Well, well, my dear little puss ; there, there, never 
mind. We can manage to get on together," said du 
Bruel, and he kissed her hands, and we came away. But 
he was very wroth. 

* The whole way from the Rue de la Victoire to the 
boulevard a perfect torrent of venomous words poured 
from his mouth like a water&U in flood; but as the 
shocking language which he used on the occasion was 
quite unfit to print, the report is necessarily inade- 

' ^^ My dear fellow, I will leave that vile, shameless 
opera dancer, a worn-out jade that has been set spinning 
like a top to every operatic air ; a foul hussy, an organ- 
grinder's monkey ! Oh, my dear boy, you have taken 
up with an actress ; may the notion of marrying your 
mistress never get a hold on you. It is a torment 
omitted from the hell of Dante, you see. Look here ! 
I will beat her ; I will give her a thrashing ; I Will give 
it to her ! Poison of my life, she sent me off like a run- 
ning footman." 

* By this time we had reached the boulevard, and he 

I04 A Prince of Bohemia 

hdd worked himself up to such a pitch of fiiry that the 
words stuck in his throat. 

' " I will kick the stuffing out of her ! " 

* " And why ? " 

* *' My dear fellow, vou will never know the thousand- 
and-one fancies that slut takes into her head. When I 
want to stay at home, she, forsooth, must go out ; when 
I want to go out, she wants me to stop at home ; and 
she spouts out arguments and accusations and reasoning 
and talks and talks till she drives you crazy. Right 
means any whim that they happen to take into their 
heads, and wrong means our notion. Overwhelm 
them with something that cuts their arguments to 
pieces — they hold their tongues and look at you as if 
you were a dead dog. My happiness indeed \ I lead 
the life of a yard dog ; I am a perfect slave. The little 
happiness that I have with her costs me dear. Confound 
it all. I will leave her everything and take myself 
oiF to a garret. Yes, a garret and liberty. I have 
not dared to have my own way once in these five 

* But instead of going to bis guests, Cursy strode up 
and down the boulevard between the Rue dc Richelieu 
and the Rue du Mont Blanc, indulging in the most 
fearful imprecations, his unbounded language was most 
comical to hear. His paroxysm of fury in the street 
contrasted oddly with his peaceable demeanour in the 
house. Exercise assisted him to work off his nervous 
agitation and inward tempest. About two o'clock, on a 
sudden frantic impulse, he exclaimed — 

* *' These damned females never know what they 
want. I will wager my head now that if I go home 
and tell her that I have sent to ask my friends to dine 
with me at the Rocher de Cafnah-y she will not be satis- 
fied though she made the arrangement herself. — But 
she will have gone off somewhere or other. I wonder 
whether there is something at the bottom of all [his, an 



A Prince of Bohemia 105 

assignation with some goat f No. In the bottom of 
her heart she loves me ! " ' 

The Marquise could not help smiling. 

* Ah, madame,' said Nathan, looking keenly at her, 
* only women and prophets know how to turn faith to 
account. — Du Bruel would have me go home with him,' 
he continued, ' and we went slowly back. It was three 
o'clock. Before he appeared, he heard a stir in the 
kitchen, saw preparations going forward, and glanced at 
me as he asked the cook the reason of this. 

***Madame ordered dinner," said the woman. 
"Madame dressed and ordered a cab, and then she 
changed her mind and ordered it again for the theatre 
tbis evening." 

'"Good," exclaimed du Bruel, ** what did I tell 
you ? " 

'We entered the house stealthily. No one was 
there. We went from room to room until we reached 
a little boudoir, and came upon Tullia in tears. She 
dried her eyes without afFectation, and spoke to du 

'"Send a note to the Recher dt CancaU" she said, 
"and ask your guests to dine here." 

' She was dressed as only women of the theatre can 
dress, in a simply-made gown of some dainty material, 
neither too cosily nor too common, graceful, and har- 
monious in outline and colouring ; there was nothing con- 
spicuous about her, nothing exaggerated — a word now 
droppingout of use, to bereplaced by the word "artistic," 
used by fools as current coin. In short, Xullia looked 
like a gentlewoman. At thirty-seven she had reached 
the prime of a Frenchwoman's beauty. At this moment 
the celebrated oval of her face was divinely pale ; she 
had laid her hat aside ; I could see a faint down like the 
Moom of fruit softening the silk contours of a cheek 
itself so delicate. There was a cm about 

ler brilliant 


io6 A Prince of Bohemia 

mj ejcs were Teilcd bjr a mist of tears; her nose, 
ddicately canred as a Roman cameo, with its quivering 
nostrik ; her littk mouth, like a child's even now ; her 
long qu^uilj throat, with the veins standing out upon 
it ; her chin, flushed for the moment by some secret 
despair; the pink tips of her ears, the hands that 
trembled under her gloves, everything about her told of 
violent feeling. The feverish twitching of her eye- 
brows betrayed her pain. She looked sublime. 

^ Her first words had crushed du Bruel. She looked 
at us both, with that penetrating, impenetrable cat-like 
rlance which only actresses and great ladies can use. 
Then she held out her hand to her husband. 

^^ Poor dear, you had scarcely gone before I blamed 
mjrself a thousand times over. It seemed to me that I 
had been horribly ungrateful ; I told myself that I had 
been unkind. — Was I very unkind ? " she asked, turning 
to me. — ^"Why not receive your friends? Is it not 
your house ? Do you want to know the reason of it 
all ? Well, I was afraid that I was not loved ; and 
indeed I was halfway between repentance and the 
shame of going back. I read the newspapers, and saw 
that there was a first night at the Varietes, and I thought 
you had meant to give the dinner to a collaborator. 
Left to myself, I gave way, I dressed to hurry out after 
you — poor pet** 

*Du Bruel looked at me triumphantly, not a 
vestige of a recollection of his orations contra Tullia in 
his mind. 

***Wcll, dearest, I have not spoken to any one of 
them/' he said. 

* " How well we understand each other ! " quoth she. 

* Even as she uttered those bewildering sweet words, 
I caught sight of something in her belt, the corner of a 
little note thrust sidewise into it ; but I did not need 
that indication to tell me that TuUia's fantastic conduct 
was referable to occult causes. Woman, in my opinion. 

A Frinoe 6E BiiIm rnii IS7 

is the most l(^;ical of cnaaA 

excepted. In both we 

the unvarying triunph td 

thought. The childTs thoi^t 

but while it possesses him, ke 

ardour that others give way bciaire 

the ingenuity, the pcrgsrmce td a 

Woman is less changeable, \mt to caE 

stupid insult. WhcDcrcr she acfi^ dK b 

by one dominant passion ; and ■laiiiifai k is 

she makes that passion the very ccaauc of 
^ Tullia was irresistiUe 

h&T fingers, the sky grew blae 

glorious. And ingenioas writer ci pim as Ik 
never so much as saw that his wife had haricd a 

out of sight. 

'''Such is Ufe, my dear feflow,''! 
and downs and contrasts^* 
'" EspeciaUy Ufe off the sta^c,' I 
'" That is just what I mcap," he endued. *Why, 
but for these vicJent emociaos, ooe wdhU \ 
to death ! Ah ! that woonn has dbe gift of 

'We went to the VarietesaherdiiUKr; b«t bdbrr 
left the house I slipped into da BrvcTs rooo^ and oa a 
shelf among a pile of waste p^xrs found the copy of dbe 
Petites-Affiches^ in which, agreeably to dbe itSomtA law, 
notice of the purchase of ^ hoise was imcrted* The 
words stared me in the bcc — ^'^ At the request cfjtaut 
Francois du Bruel and Qandine CbaSanmx^ his 

wife ^" Here was the explanation of the whole matter* 

I offered my arm to Claudine, and allowed the guests to 
descend the stairs in front o( us. When we were alone — 
"If I were La Palferine," I said,"! would not break an 

' Gravely she laid her finger on her lips. She leant 
on my arm as we went downstairs, and looked at 

loS A Prince of Bohemia 

roe with almost something like happiness in her eyes 
because I knew La Palfcrine. Can you see the first 
idea that occurred to her ? She thought of making a 
spv of me, but I turned her off with the light jesting 
talk of Bohemia. 

* A month later, after a first performance of one of du 
Bruel's plays, we met in the vestibule of the theatre. 
It was raining; I went to call a cab. We had been 
delayed for a few minutes, so that there were no cabs in 
tight. Claudine scolded du Bruel soundly ; and as we 
rolled through the streets (for she set me down at 
Florine's), she continued the quarrel with a series of most 
mortifying remarks. 

' " What is this about f " I inquired. 

* " Oh, my dear fellow, she blamci me for allowing 
you to run out for a cab, and thereupon proceeds to wish 
for a carriage." 

' ** As a dancer," said she, " I have never been accus- 
tomed to use my feet except on the boards. If you 
have any spirit, you will turn out four more plays or so 
in a year ; you will make up your mind that succeed 
they must, when you think of the end in view, and that 

four wife will not walk in the mud. It is a shame that 
should have to ask for it. You ought to have guessed 
my continual discomfort during the five years since I 
married you." 

'"I am quite willing," returned du Bruel. "But we 
shall ruin ourselves." 

'"If you run into debt," she said, "my uncle's money 
will clear it off some day." 

' " You are quite capable of leaving me the debts and 
taking the property." 

'"Oh ! is that the way you take it ,' " retorted she. 
" I have nothing more to say to you ; such a speech 
stops my mouth." 

'Whereupon du Bruel poured out his soul in e 
and protestations of love. Not a word did i~ 

A Prince of Bohania 109 

He took her hands, she allowed him to take them ; tbef 
were like ice, like a dead woman's hands. Tnllia, 70a 
can understand, was playing to admindoo the part of 
corpse that women can play to show you that they 
refuse their consent to anything and everything; that 
for you they arc suppressing soul, spirit, and Ufe, and 
regard themselves as beasts of burden. Nothing so 
provokes a man with a heart as this strategy. Women 
can only use it with those who worship them. 

'She turned to me. **£>o you suppose," she said 
scornfully, " that a count would have uttered such an 
insult even if the thought had entered his mind ? For 
my misfortune I have lived with dukes, ambassadors, 
and great lords, and I know their ways. How intoler- 
able It makes bourgeois life ! After all, a playwright is 
not a Rastignac nor a Rhetore " 

' Du Bruel looked ghastly at this. Two days after- 
wards we met in the foytr at the Opera, and took a few 
turns together. The conversation fell on Tullia. 

* "Do not take my ravings on the boulevard too scri- 
ously," said he ; *' I have a violent temper." 

* For two winters I was a tolerably frequent visitor at 
du Bruel's house, and I followed Claudine's tactics 
closely. She had a splendid carriage. Du Bruel entered 
public life; she made him abjure his Royalist opinions. 
He rallied himself; he took his place again in the adminis- 
tration ; the National Guard was discreetly canvassed, 
du Bruel was elected major, and behaved so valorously 
in a street riot, that he was decorated with the rosette of 
an officer of the Legion of Honour. He was appointed 
Master of Requests and head of a department. Uncle 
ChatFaroux died and left his niece forty thousand francs 
per annum, three-fourths of his fortune, Du Bruel 
became a deputy ; but beforehand, to save the necessity of 
re-election, he secured his nomination to the Council of 
State. He reprinted di^ e archaeological treatises, a 
couple of political paov d a statistical work, by 


no A Prince of Bohemia 

way of pretext for bit appointment to one of the oblig- 
ing academies of the Inititut. At this moment he 
is a Commander of the Legion, and (after fishing in 
the troubled waters of political intrigue] has quite 
recently been made a peer of France and a count. As 
yet our friend does not venture to bear bis honours ; hit 
wife merely puts " La Comtcsse du Brucl " on her cards. 
The sometime playwright has the Order of Leopold, the 
Order of Isabella, the Cross of Saint- Vladimir, second 
class, the Order of Civil Merit of Bavaria, the Papal 
,Ordcr of the Golden Spur, — all the lesser orders, in short, 
beside the Grand Cross. 

* Three months ago Claudine drove to La Palfcrine't 
door in her splendid carriage with its armorial bearings. 
Du Bruel's grandfather was a farmer of taxes ennobled 
towards the end of Louis Quatorze's reign. Cherin com- 
posed his coat-of-arms for him, so the Count's coronet 
looks not amiss above a scutcheon innocent of Imperial 
absurdities. In this way, in the short space of three 
years, Claudine had carried out the programme laid 
down for her by the charming, light-hearted La Pal- 

'One day, just a month ago, she climbed the miser- 
able staircase to her lover's lodging ; climbed in her 
glory, dressed like a real countess of the Faubourg Saint- 
Germain, to our friend's garret. La Palferine, seeing 
her, said, ** You have made a peeress of yourself I know. 
But it is too late, Claudine; every one is talking just 
now about the Southern Cross, I should like to see it ! " 

'*'I will get it for you." 

* La Palferine burst into a peal of Homeric laughter. 
'*'Mo8t distinctly," he returned, "I do not wish to 

have a woman as ignorant as a carp for my mistress, a 
woman that springs like a flying fish from the green- 
room of the Opera to Court, for I should like to see you 
at the Court of the Citizen Kin^." 

* She turned to 


A Prince of Bohemia 1 1 1 

*"Wfaat is the Southern Cross?" she asked, lo a 
sad, downcast voice. 

*I was struck with admiration for this indomitable 
love, outdoing the most ingenious marvels of fairj tales in 
real life — a love that would spring over a precipice to find 
a roc's egg, or to gather the singing flower. I explained 
that the Southern Cross was a nebulous constellation 
even brighter than the Milky Way, arranged in the form 
of a cross, and that it could only be seen in southern 

* " Very well, Charles, let us go," said sht. 

' La Palferine, ferocious though he was, had tcan in 
his eyes; but what a look there was in Claadine't bet, 
what a note in her voice ! I have seen nothing like the 
thing that followed, not even in the sujM'eme touch of a 
great actor's art ; nothing to compare with her move- 
ment when she saw the hard eyes softened in tean ; 
Claudine sank upon her koecs and kissed La Palfcrinc's 
pitiless hand. He raised her with his grand manner, his 
" Rusticoli air," as he calls it — ''There, child ! '* he nid, 
" I will do something for you ; I will put ) 

'Well,' concluded Nathan, 'I ask myself sometiines 
whether du Bniel is really deceived. Truly there is 
nothing more comic, nothing stranger than the sieht of 
a careless young fellow ruling a married couple, his 
slightest whims received as law, the weightiest Jecmoot 
revoked at a word from him. That dinno iocidcnt, as 
you can see, is repeated times without number, it iotcr- 
feres with important matters. Still, but for Clandinc*s 
caprices, du Bruel would be de Cnrsy still, one 
vaudevillist among five hundred ; whereas he tf in the 
House of Peers.' 

' You will change t he jj , I hope ! * njd Nathan, 
addressing Mme. de l^^B^ 
' I should think f^r^ f >et nuwi to the 

112 A Prince of Bohemia 

maski for you. My dear Nathan/ she added in the 
poet's ear, * I know another case in which the wife take* 
du Bniel's place.' 

' And the catastrophe i ' queried Lousteau, returning 
juit at the end of Mme. de la Baudraye's story. 

* I do not believe in catastrophes. One has to invent 
such good ones to show that art is quite a match for 
chance ; and nobody reads a book twice, my friend, 
except for the details.' 

* But there is a catastrophe,' persisted Nathan. 
'What is it?' 

*Thc Marquise de Rochelide is inlatuated with 
Charles Edward. My story excited her curiosity.* 

* Oh, unhappy woman I ' cried Mme. de la Baudraye. 
'Not so unhappy,* said Nathan, 'for Maxime de 

Traillcs and La Palferine have brought about a rupture 
between the Marquis and Mme. Schontz, and they 
mean to make it up between Arthur and Beatrix.* 




Tt Mamiair It Barwm Jama it RMhtdaldy Bmaitr ^U 
Austrian Cmsml-GaurMl at Pmris, 

The word lorette is a cupbanum iorcntBd to describe 
the status of a pcnoiuge, or a pcnooagc of a ttata^ of 
which it is awkward to speak ; the WttbA Acadenie, 
in its modesty, having tmiittcd to sopf^ a defiidliaH 
out of regard for the age of its fbrtj membcn. When- 
ever a new word conies to sup^j the pla^ of an 
unwieldy circumlocution, its fortune is assured ; the 
word lorette has passed into the language of ercry class 
of society, even where the lorette herself will ncrcr gain 
an entrance. It was only invented in 1840, and derived 
beyond a doubt from the agglomeiation of such svrallows* 
nests about the Church of Our Lady of Lwetto. Thb 
information is for etymologists only. Those gentlemen 
would not be so often in a quandary if medixval writers 
had only taken such pains with details of contemporary 
manners as we take in these days of analysis and 

Mile. Turquct, or Malaga, for she is better known by 
her pseudonym,* was one of the earliest parishioners of 
that charming church. At the time to which this 
story belongs, that lighthearted and lively damsel glad- 
dened the existence of a notary with a wife somewhat 
too bigoted, rigid, and frigid for domestic happiness. 

Now, it so ^11 out that o Carnival evening Maitre 

M UJ, — 'irau. 

114 A Man of Business 

Cardot was entertaining guests at Mile. Turquet's house 
— Desroches the attorney, Bixiou of the caricatures, 
Lousteau the journalist, Nathan, and others ; it is quite 
unnecessary to give any further description oT these 
personages, all bearers of illustrious names in the Comedit 
Humaine. Young La Palferine, in spite of his title of 
Count and his great descent, which, alas ! means a 
great descent in fortune likewise, had honoured the 
notary's little establishment with his presence. 

At dinner, in such a house, one does not expect to 
meet the patriarchal beef, the skinny fowl and salad of 
domestic and family life, nor is there any attempt at the 
hypocritical conversation of drawing-rooms furnished 
with highly respectable matrons. When, alas ! will 
respectability be charming I When will the women in 
good society vouchsafe to show rather less of their 
shoulders and rather more wit or geniality ? Mar- 
guerite Turquet, the Aspasia of the Cirque-Olym pique, 
is one of those franlc, very living personalities to whom 
all is forgiven, such unconscious sinners are they, such 
intelligent penitents; of such as Malaga one might 
ask, like Cardot — a witty man enough, albeit a notary 
— to be well 'deceived,* And yet you must not think 
that any enormities were committed. Desroches and 
Cardot were good fellows grown too grey in the profes- 
sion not to feel at ease with Bixiou, Lousteau, Nathan, 
and young La Palferine. And they on their side had too 
often had recourse to their legal advisers, and knew them 
too well to try to ' draw them out,' in lorette language. 

Conversation, perfumed with seven cigars, at first was 
as fantastic as a kid let loose, but finally it settled down 
upon the strategy of the constant war waged in Paris 
between creditors and debtors. 

Now, if you will be so good as to recall the hiitorr 
and antecedents of the guests, you will know that in ul 
Paris you could °lv iind a group of men with more i 

experience in j the professional men. 

A Man of Business 115 

band, and the artists on the other, were something in 
the position of magistrates and chininals hobnobbing 
together. A set of Bixiou's drawings to illustrate life 
in the debtors' prison, led the conversation to take this 
particular turn ; and from debtors' prisons they went to 

It was midnight. The/ had broken up into little 
knots round the table and before the fire, and gave 
themselves up to the burlesque fiin which is only possible 
or comprehensible in Paris and in that particular region 
which is bounded by the Faubourg Montmartre, (he 
Rue Chaussee d'Antin, the upper end of the Rue de 
Navarin and the line of the boulevards. 

In ten minutes' time they had come to an end of all 
the deep reflections, ail the moralisings, small and great, 
all the bad puns made on a subject alrudy exhausted by 
Rabelais three hundred and fifty years ago. It is not a 
little to their credit that the pyrotechnic display was cut 
short with a final squib from Malaga. 

* It all goes to the shoemakers,' she said. * I left a 
milliner because she fisiled twice with my hat*. The 
vixen has been here twenty-seven times to ask for twenty 
francs. She did not know that we never have twenty 
francs. One has a thousand francs, or one sends to one^ 
notary for five hundred ; but twenty francs I have never 
had in my life. My cook and my nuid may, perhaps, 
have so much between them ; but for my own part, I 
have nothing but credit, and I should lose that if I UmA 
to borrowing small sums. If I were to ask for twenty 
francs, I should have nothing to distinguish me frr.nn my 
colleagues that walk the boulevard.' 

' Is the milliner paid ? * asked La Palfcrine, 

* Oh, come now, are you turning stupid I ' taid tfur, 
with a wink. * She came (hit morning for (he twtoty- 
•erentb time, that is how I came to menti'tn it/ 

" ' What did you do P ' aiked Desrochrs. 

* I took fityar- '*'''. and— ordered a little ha( that 

ii6 A M«s of BpwnfM 

I l»vc jtat invmtcd, a quite new Eliape. If &fUe. 
Anuuula wiccigdt wnA h, ske will a.y ao more about 
de moneTf facT fartune is made-' 

* In my c^nnioo,* pat io Desrocbes^ ' the finest tilings 
dna 1 b«vc seen in a dnd of this kind give those who 
know Paris ■ ^r better picture of the city than zU the 
batcv ponraiis that ifacv paint. Some of jou think that 
yoa now a tfainf; or two,' be continued, glancing round 
at Natban, Bixioo, La PaJfcnne, and Loustcau, ' but the 
kinc nf the crouiul is a colxin Count, now busy nmging 
kj»M.lf InlbisniDC, be was supposed to be the cleverest, 
adraitest, canniest, boldest, stoutest, most subtle, and 
exjicncnced of all t^ piixtcs, wbo, equipped with fine 
mannas, TeQow kid gWes, and cabs, have ercr sailed or 
ever will sail apontbc stormy sea of Parts. He fears neither 
God Bor man. He appties in private life the principles 
^at guide ijk Engli^ Cabinet. Up to the time of his 
mairiagc, his Hfc was one contiaaal war, Hke — Lousteau's, 
far instance. I wms, and am still his solicitor.* 

*And the fint lencr of his name is Maxime de 
TiwUes,* sud La Palfenne. 

* For that muter, he has paid every one, and injured no 
one,* coatiniKd Desrocbcs. *But as our friend Bixtou was 
saying just now, it is a viohtion of the liberty of the sub- 
ject to be made to pay in March when you have no mind 
to pay till October. By virtue of this article of his 
particular code, Maxime regarded a creditor's scheme 
for making him pay at once as a swindler's trick. It 
was long since he had grasped the significance of the bill 
of exchange in all its bearings, direct and remote. A 
young man once, in my place, called a bill of exchange 
the " asses' bridge " in his hearing. " No," said he, " it 
is the Bridge of Sighs -, it is the shortest way to an execu- 
tion." Indeed, his knowledge of commercial law was 
to complete, that a professional could not have taught 
him anything. At that time he had nothing, as you 
know. His carriage and horses were jobbed ; he lived 

he lived H 

in brnfax^lnK 
to his Tzitt tn dK 

IS I speak, he iK'^ 

in IJK nnrey' oimiu upi: 3 ' ^ ^ j.n -> ■.--:_,^. 

Kk Biccif tKOT the SlXSli "^ 

with 1 ccup.t; ir -i.-' 

1 1 8 A Man of Business 

^The same. Under the Restoration, between 1823 
and 1827, Cerizet's occupation consisted in first putting 
bis name intrepidly to various paragraphs, on which the 
public prosecutor fastened with avidity, and subse- 
quently marchine ofF to prison. A man could make a 
name for himself with small expense in those days. 
The Liberal party called their provincial champion 
^'the courageous Cerizet," and towards 1828 so much 
zeal received its reward in *' general interest." 

* ** General interest '* is a kind of civic crown bestowed 
on the deserving by the daily press. Cerizet tried to 
discount the '^general interest" taken in him. He 
came to Paris, and, with some help from capitalists in 
the Opposition, started as a broker, and conducted 
financial operations to some extent, the capital being 
found by a man in hiding, a skilful gambler who over- 
reached himself, and in consequence, in July 1830, his 
capital foundered in the shipwreck of the Government.' 

^ Oh ! it was he whom we used to call the System,' 
cried Bixiou. 

^ Say no harm of him, poor fellow,' protested Malaga. 
* D'Estourny was a good sort.* 

^ You can imagine the part that a ruined man was 
sure to play in 1830 when his name in politics was 
" the courageous Cerizet." He was sent off into a very 
snug little sub- prefecture. Unluckily for him, it is 
one thing to be in opposition — any missile is good 
enough to throw, so long as the fight lasts ; but quite 
another to be in office. Three months later, he was 
obliged to send in his resignation. Had he not taken 
it into his head to attempt to win popularity? Still, 
as he had done nothing as yet to imperil his title of 
** courageous Cerizet," the Government proposed by 
way of compensation that he should manage a news- 
paper ; nominally an Opposition paper, but Ministerialist 
in petto. So the fall of this noble nature was really due 
to the Government. To Cerizet, as manager of the 

A Man of Business 119 

paper, it was rather too evident that he was as a bird 
perched on a rotten bough ; and then it was that he 
promoted that nice little joint-stock company, and 
thereby secured a couple of years in prison ; he was 
caught, while more ingenious swindlers succeeded in 
catching the public' 

^ We are acquainted with the more ingenious,' said 
Bixiou ; ^ let us say no ill of the poor fellow ; he was 
nabbed ; Couture allowed them to squeeze his cash-box; 
who would ever have thought it of him ? ' 

* At all events, Cerizet was a low sort of fellow, a good 
deal damaged by low debauchery. Now for the duel I 
spoke about. Never did two tradesmen of the worst 
type, with the worst manners, the lowest pair of villains 
imaginable, go into partnership in a dirtier business. 
Their stock-in-trade consisted of the peculiar idiom of 
the man about town, the audacity of poverty, the 
cunning that comes of experience, and a special know- 
ledge of Parisian capitalists, their origin, connections, 
acquaintances, and intrinsic value. This partnership 
of two ' dabblers ' (let the Stock Exchange term pass, 
for it is the only word which describes them), this 
partnership of dabblers did not last very long. They 
fought like famished curs over every bit of garbage. 

' The earlier speculations of the firm of Cerizet and 
Claparon were, however, well planned. The two 
scamps joined forces with Barbet, Chaboisseau, Samanon, 
and usurers of that stamp, and bought up hopelessly bad 

^Claparon's place of business at that time was a 
cramped entresol in the Rue Chabannais — five rooms 
at a rent of seven hundred francs at most. Each 
partner slept in a little closet, so carefully closed from 
prudence, that my head-clerk could never get inside. The 
furniture of the other three rooms — an ante- chamber, 
a waiting-room, and a private office — would not have 
fetched three hundred francs altogether at a distress- 

I20 A Man of Business 

warrant sale. You know enough of Paris to know the 
look of it; the stuffed horsehair-covered chairs, a 
table covered with a green cloth, a trumpery clock 
between a couple of candle sconces, growing tarnished 
under glass shades, the small gilt-firamed mirror over 
the chimney-piece, and in the grate a charred stick 
or two of firewood which had lasted them for two 
winters, as my head-clerk put it. As for the office, you 
can guess what it was like — more letter-files than 
business letters, a set of common pigeon-holes for either 
partner, a cylinder desk, empty as the cash-box, in 
the middle of the room, and a couple of armchairs on 
either side of a coal fire. The carpet on the floor was 
bought cheap at second-hand (like the biUs and bad 
debts). In short, it was the mahogany furniture of 
furnished apartments which usually descends from one 
occupant of chambers to another during fifty years of 
service. Now you know the pair of antagonists. 

^During the first three months of a partnership 
dissolved four months later in a bout of fisticuiSfs, Cerizet 
and Claparon bought up two thousand francs' worth of 
bills bearing Maxime's signature (since Maxime is his 
name), and filled a couple of letter files to bursting with 
judgments, appeals, orders of the court, distress-warrant, 
application for stay of proceedings, and all the rest of it ; 
to put it briefly, they had bills for three thousand two 
hundred francs odd centimes, for which they had given 
five hundred francs ; the transfer being made under 
private seal, with special power of attorney, to save the 
expense of registration. Now it so happened at this 
juncture, Maxime, being of ripe age, was seized with one 
of the fancies peculiar to the man of fifty ' 

* Antonia ! ' exclaimed La Palferine. * That Antonia 
whose fortune I made by writing to ask for a tooth- 
brush ! ' 

^ Her real name is Chocardelle,' said Malaga, not over 
well pleased by the fine-sounding pseudonym. 

A Man of Business 121 

^ The same,' continued Desroches. 

^ It was the only mistake Maxime ever made in his 
life. But what would you have, no vice is absolutely 
perfect ? ^ put in Bixiou. 

^ Maxime had still to learn what sort of a life a man 
may be led into by a girl of eighteen when she is minded 
to take a header from her honest garret into a sumptuous 
carriage ; it is a lesson that all statesmen should take to 
heart. At this time, de Marsay had just been employing 
his friend, our friend de Trailles, in the high comedy of 
politics. Maxime had looked high for his conquests; 
he had no experience of untitled women ; and at fifty 
years he felt that he had a right to take a bite of a little 
so-called wild fruit, much as a sportsman will halt under 
a peasant's apple-tree. So the Count found a reading- 
room for Mile. Chocardelle, a rather smart little place to 
be had cheap, as usual ' 

* Pooh f said Nathan. ^She did not stay in it six 
months. She was too handsome to keep a reading-room.' 

^ Perhaps you are the fether of her child ? ' suggested 
the lorette. 

Desroches resumed. 

^ Since the firm bought up Maxime's debts, Cerizet's 
likeness to a bailifPs officer grew more and more striking, 
and one morning after seven fruitless attempts he suc- 
ceeded in penetrating into the Count's presence. Suzon, 
the old man-servant, albeit he was by no means in his 
novitiate, at last mistook the visitor for a petitioner, 
come to propose a thousand crowns if Maxime would 
obtain a license to sell postage stamps for a young lady. 
Suzon, without the slightest suspicion of the little scamp, 
a thoroughbred Paris street-boy into whom prudence 
had been rubbed by repeated personal experience of the 
police-courts, induced his master to receive him. Can 
you see the man of business, with an uneasy eye, a bald 
forehead, and scarcely any hair on his head, standing in 
his threadbare jacket and muddy boots ' 

122 A Man of Business 

^ What a picture of a Dun I ' cried Lousteau. 

^ standing before the Count, that image of 

flaunting Debt, in his blue flannel dressing-gown, 
slippers worked by some marquise or other, trousers of 
white woollen stuff, and a dazzling shirt ? There he 
stood, with a gorgeous cap on his black dyed hair, play- 
ing with the tassels at his waist * 

**Tis a bit of genre for anybody who knows the 
pretty little morning room, hung with silk and full of 
valuable paintings, where Maxime breakfasts,' said 
Nathan. ^ You tread on a Smyrna carpet, you admire the 
sideboards filled with curiosities and rarities fit to make 
a King of Saxony envious * 

^Now for the scene itself,' said Desroches, and the 
deepest silence followed; 

'"Monsieur le Comte," began Cerizet, **I have 
come from a M. Charles Claparon, who used to be a 
banker " 

' " Ah ! poor devil, and what does he want with me ? " 

c cc Weii^ he is at present your creditor for a matter of 
three thousand two hundred francs, seventy-five 
centimes, principal, interest, and costs ' 

* " Coutelier's business ? " put in Maxime, who knew 
his affairs as a pilot knows his coast. 

' " Yes, Monsieur le Comte," said Cerizet with a bow. 
" I have come to ask your intentions." 

' " I shall only pay when the fancy takes me," re- 
turned Maxime, and he rang for Suzon. " It was very 
rash of Claparon to buy up bills of mine without speak- 
ing to me beforehand. I am sorry for him, for he 
did so very well for such a long time as a man of 
straw for friends of mine. I always said that a man 
must really be weak in his intellect to work for men that 
stuff themselves with millions, and to serve them so faith- 
fully for such low wages. And now here he gives me 
another proof of his stupidity ! Yes, men deserve what 
they get. It is your own doing whether you get a crown 

A Man of Business 123 

on your forehead or a bullet through your head ; whether 
you are a millionaire or a porter, justice is always done 
you. I cannot help it, my dear fellow ; I myself am not 
a king, I stick to my principles. I have no pity for 
those that put me to expense or do not know their 
business as creditors. — Suzon ! my tea ! Do you see 
this gentleman ?" he continued when the man came in. 
** Well, you have allowed yourself to be taken in, poor 
old boy. This gentleman is a creditor ; you ought to 
have known him by his boots. No friend nor foe of 
mine, nor those that are neither and want something of 
me, come to see me on foot. — My dear M. Cerizet, do 
you understand ? You will not wipe your boots on my 
carpet again " (looking as he spoke at the mud that 
whitened the encmy*s soles). " Convey my compliments 
and sympathy to Claparon, poor buffer, for I shall file 
this business under the letter Z." 

*A11 this with an easy good-humour fit to give a 
virtuous citizen the colic. 

* ** You are wrong, Monsieur le Comte,*' retorted 
Cerizet, in a slightly peremptory tone. " Wc will be 
paid in fiiU, and that in a way which you may not like. 
That was why I came to you first in a friendly spirit, 
as is right and fit between gentlemen " 

* '' Oh ! so that is how you understand it ? " began 
Maxime, enraged by this last piece of presumption. 
There was something of Talleyrand's wit in the in- 
solent retort, if you have quite grasped the contrast 
between the two men and their costumes. Maxime 
scowled and looked full at the intruder ; Cerizet not 
merely endured the glare of cold fury, but even 
returned it, with an icy, cat-like malignance and fixity 
of gaze. 

* ** Very good, sir, go out " 

*Very well, good day. Monsieur le Comte. We 
shall be quits before six months are out." 

* " If you can steal the amount of your bill, which is 

1 24 A Man of Buaness 

legally due I own, I shall be indebted to you, sir," 
replied Maxime. ^' You will have taught me a new 
precaution to take. I am very much your servant." 

' " Monsieur le Comte," said Cerizet, ** it is I, on the 
contrary, who am yours." 

^ Here was an explicit, forcible, confident declaration 
on either side. A couple of tigers confabulating, with 
the prey before them, and a fight impending, would 
have been no finer and no shrewder than this pair ; the 
insolent fine gentleman as great a blackguard as the 
other in his soiled and mud-stained clothes. 

* Which will you lay your money on ? ' asked Des- 
roches, looking round at an audience, surprised to find 
how deeply it was interested. 

* A pretty story ! ' cried Malaga. * My dear boy, go 
on, I beg of you. This goes to one's heart.' 

^ Nothing commonplace could happen between two 
fighting-cocks of that calibre,' added La Palferine. 

^ Pooh ! ' cried Malaga, ^ I will wager my cabinet- 
maker's invoice (the fellow is dunning me) that the 
little toad was too many for Maxime.' 

^ I bet on Maxime,' said Cardot. ^Nobody ever 
caught him napping.' 

Desroches drank off a glass that Malaga handed to him. 

^Mlle. Chocardelle's reading-room,' he continued, 
after a pause, ^ was in the Rue Coquenard, just a step or 
two from the Rue Pigalle where Maxime was living. 
The said Mile. Chocardelle lived at the back on the 
garden side of the house, beyond a big, dark place 
where the books were kept. Antonia left her aunt to 
look after the business ' 

^ Had she an aunt even then ? ' exclaimed Malaga. 
^ Hang it all, Maxime did things handsomely.' 

^ Alas ! it was a real aunt,' said Desroches ; ^ her name 
was — let me see ' 

^ Ida Bonamy,' said Bixiou. 

^ So as Antonia's aunt took a good deal of the work 

A Man of Business 125 

oflF her hands, she went to bed late and lay late of a 
morning, never showing her face at the desk until the 
afternoon, some time between two and four. From the 
very first her appearance was enough to draw custom. 
Several elderly men in the quarter used to come, among 
them a retired coach-builder, one Croizeau. Beholding 
this miracle of female loveliness through the window- 
panes, he took it into his head to read the newspapers in 
the beauty's reading-room; and a sometime custom- 
house officer, named Denisart, with a ribbon in his 
button-hole, followed the example. Croizeau chose to 
look upon Denisart as a rival. ^^ Mosieur^^ he said 
afterwards, '^ I did not know what to buy for you ! ' 

^That speech should give you an idea of the man. 
The Sieur Croizeau happens to belong to a particular 
class of old man which should be known as '' Coquerels " 
since Henri Monnier's time ; so well did Monnier 
render the piping voice, the little mannerisms, little 
queue, little sprinkling of powder, little movements of 
the head, prim little manner, and tripping gait in the 
part of Coquerel in La Famille Improvisee. This 
Croizeau used to hand over his halfpence with a flourish 
and a ** There, fair lady ! " 

^ Mme. Ida Bonamy the aunt was not long in finding 
out through the servant that Croizeau, by popular report 
of the neighbourhood of the Rue de BufFault, where he 
lived, was a man of exceeding stinginess, possessed of forty 
thousand francs per annum. A week after the instalment 
of the charming librarian he was delivered of a pun — 

* " You lend me books {livres\ but I give you plenty 
of francs in return," said he. 

^ A few days later he put on a knowing little air, as 
much as to say, ^^ I know you are engaged, but my turn 
will come one day ; I am a widower." 

^ He always came arrayed in fine linen, a cornflower 
blue coat, a paduasoy waistcoat, black trousers, and black 
ribbon bows on the double soled shoes that creaked 

126 A Man of Business 

like an abbe*s; he always held a fourteen franc silk 
hat in his hand. 

^ ^' I am old and I bave no children," he took occasion 
to confide to the young lady some few days after 
Ccrizet's visit to Maxime. ^^I hold my relations in 
horror. They are peasants born to work in the fields. 
Just imagine it, I came up from the country with six 
francs in my pocket, and made my fortune here. I am 
not proud. A pretty woman is my equal. Now would 
it not be nicer to be Mme. Croizeau for some years to 
come than to do a Count's pleasure for a twelvemonth ? 
He will go off and leave you some time or other ; and 
when that day comes, you will think of me • . . your 
servant, my pretty lady ! ** 

^ All this was simmering below the surface. The 
slightest approach at love-making was made quite on the 
sly. Not a soul suspected that the trim little old fogey was 
smitten with Antonia ; and so prudent was the elderly 
lover, that no rival could have guessed anything from his 
behaviour in the reading-room. For a couple of months 
Croizeau watched the retired custom-house official ; but 
before the third month was out he had good reason to 
believe that his suspicions were groundless. He exerted 
his ingenuity to scrape an acquaintance with Denisart, 
came up with him in the street, and at length seized his 
opportunity to remark, '* It is a fine day, sir ! ** 

^Whereupon the retired official responded with, 
"Austerlitz weather, sir. I was there myself — I was 
wounded indeed, I won my Cross on that glorious day.'' 

' And so from one thing to another the two drifted 
wrecks of the Empire struck up an acquaintance. 
Little Croizeau was attached to the Empire through his 
connection with Napoleon's sisters. He had been their 
coach-builder, and had frequently dunned them for 
money ; so he gave out that he '^ had had relations 
with the Imperial femily." Maxime, duly informed 
by Antonia of the ^^ nice old man's " proposals (for so 

A Man of Business 127 

the aunt called Croizeau), wished to see him. Cerizet's 
declaration of war had so far taken effect that he of the 
yellow kid gloves was studying the position of every 
piece, however insignificant, upon the board ; and 
it so happened that at the mention of that ^^nice old 
man," an ominous tinkling sounded in his ears. One 
evening, therefore, Maxime seated himself among the 
book-shelves in the dimly lighted back room, recon- 
noitred the seven or eight customers through the chink 
between the green curtains, and took the little coach- 
builder's measure. He gauged the man's infatuation, 
and was very well satisfied to find that the varnished 
doors of a tolerably sumptuous future were ready to 
turn at a word from Antonia so soon as his own fancy 
had passed off. 

* ** And that other one yonder ? " asked he, pointing 
out the stout fine-looking elderly man with the Cross of 
the Legion of Honour. " Who is he ? " 

* " A retired custom-house officer." 

* ** The cut of his countenance is not reassuring," said 
Maxime, beholding the Sieur Denisart. 

^ And indeed the old soldier held himself upright as a 
steeple. His head was remarkable for the amount of 
powder and pomatum bestowed upon it ; he looked almost 
like a postillion at a fimcy ball. Underneath that felted 
covering, moulded to the top of the wearer's cranium, 
appeared an elderly profile, half-official, half-soldierly, 
with a comical admixture of arrogance, — altogether 
something like caricatures of the ConstitutionneL The 
sometime official finding that age, and hair-powder, and 
the conformation of his spine made it impossible to 
read a word without spectacles, sat displaying a very 
creditable expanse of chest with all the pride of an old 
man with a mistress. Like old General Montcornet, 
that pillar of the Vaudeville, he wore earrings. Denisart 
was partial to blue ; his roomy trousers and well-worn 
greatcoat were both of blue cloth. 

128 A Man of Business 

^•^How lone is it since that old fogey came here? '' 
inquired Maxime, thinking that he saw danger in the 

**^Oh, from the beginning,** returned Antonia, 
^ pretty nearly two months ago now.' 

***Good," said Maxime to himself, "Cerizet only 
came to me a month ago. — Just get him to talk,'' he 
added in Antonia's ear ; ^^ I want to hear his voice." 

* ** Pshaw," said she, ** that is not so easy. He never 
says a word to me." 

*"Then why does he come here?" demanded 

*"For a queer reason," returned the fair Antonia. 
*^ In the first place, although he is sixty-nine, he has a 
fancy ; and because he is sixty-nine, he is as methodical 
as a clock face. Every day at five o'clock the old 
gentleman goes to dine with her in the Rue de la 
V ictoire. (I am sorry for her.) Then, at six o'clock, 
he comes here, reads steadily at the papers for four hours, 
and goes back at ten o'clock. Daddy Croizeau says 
that he knows M. Denisart's motives, and approves his 
conduct ; and in his place, he would do the same. So I 
know exactly what to expect. If ever I am Mme. 
Croizeau, I shall have four hours to myself between six 
and ten o'clock." 

^ Maxime looked through the directory, and foimd the 
following reassuring item : — 

* " Denisart, * retired custom-house officer. Rue de la Victoire." 

^ His uneasiness vanished. 

* Gradually the Sieur Denisart and the Sieur Croizeau 
began to exchange confidences. Nothing so binds two 
men together as a similarity of views in the matter of 
womankind. Daddy Croizeau went to dine with ^^ M. 
Denisart's fair lady,' as he called her. And here I must 
make a somewhat important observation. 

^The reading-room had been paid for half in cash. 

A Man of Business 129 

half in bills signed by the said Mile. Chocardelle. The 
quart d^heure de Rabelais arrived ; the Count had no 
money. So the first bill of three thousand-franc bills 
was met by the amiable coach-builder; that old scoundrel 
Denisart having recommended him to secure himself 
with a mortgage on the reading-room. 

*"For my own part," said Denisart, "I have seen 
pretty doings from pretty women. So, in all cases, 
even when I have lost my head, I am always on my 
guard with a woman. There is this creature, for 
instance ; I am madly in love with her ; but this is not 
her furniture ; no, it belongs to me. The lease is taken 
out in my name.'' 

^ You know Maxime ! He thought the coach-builder 
uncommonly green. Croizeau might pay all three bills, 
and get nothing for a long while ; for Maxime felt more 
infatuated with Antonia than ever.' 

*I can well believe it,' said La Palferine. ^She is 
the bella Imperia of our day.' 

^ With her rough skin ! ' exclaimed Malaga ; ^ so 
rough, that she ruins herself in bran baths ! ' 

^Croizeau spoke with a coach-builder's admiration 
of the sumptuous furniture provided by the amorous 
Denisart as a setting for his hiv one, describing it all in 
detail vrith diabolical complacency for Antonia s benefit,' 
continued Desroches. ^The ebony chests inlaid with 
mother-of-pearl and gold wire, the Brussels carpets, a 
mediaeval bedstead worth three thousand francs, a Boule 
clock, candelabra in the four corners of the dining-room, 
silk curtains, on which Chinese patience had wrought 
pictures of birds, and hangings over the doors, worth 
more than the portress that opened them. 

*"And that is what you ought to have, my pretty 
lady. — And that is what I should like to offer you," he 
would conclude. ^^ I am quite aware that you scarcely 
care a bit about me ; but, at my age, we cannot expect 
too much. Judge how much I love you ; I have lent 


130 A Man of Business 

vou a thousand francs. I must confess that, in all my 
t>orn days, I have not lent anybody that much " 

^He held out his pemiy as he spoke, with the im- 
portant air of a man that gives a learned demonstration. 

^ That evening at the Varietes, Antonia spoke to the 

^ ^^ A reading-room is very dull, all the same,' said she ; 
^^ I feel that I have no sort of taste for that kind of life, 
and I see no future in it. It is only fit for a widow that 
wishes to keep body and soul together, or for some 
hideously ugly thing that fancies she can catch a husband 
with a little finery." 

*"It was your own choice,** returned the Count. 
Just at that moment, in came Nucingen, of whom 
Maxime, king of lions (the "yellow kid gloves" were 
the lions of that day) had won three thousand francs 
the evening before. Nucingen had come to pay his 
gaming debt. 

^"Ein writ of attachment haf shoost peen served on 
me by der order of dot teufel Glabaron," he said, seeing 
Maxime's astonishment. 

* ** Oh, so that is how they are going to work, is it ? " 
cried Maxime. "They are not up to much, that 

* ** It makes not," said the banker, ** bay dem, for dey 
may apply demselfs to oders pesides, und do you harm. 
I dake dees bretty voman to vitness dot I haf baid you 
dees morning, long pefore dat writ vas serfed." ' 

^ Queen of the boards,' smiled La Palferine, looking 
at Malaga, ^ thou art about to lose thy bet.' 

^ Once, a long time ago, in a similar case,' resumed 
Desroches, ^a too honest debtor took fright at the 
idea of a solemn declaration in a court of law, and de- 
clined to pay Maxime after notice was given. That 
time we made it hot for the creditor by piling on writs 
of attachment, so as to absorb the whole amount in 

A Man of Business 133 

< « Very well. It is kind of you, Daddy Croizeau," 
said Antonia. 

* " Oh, I shall be much kinder before I have done. 
Just imagine it, poor M. Denisart has been worried into 
the jaundice ! Yes, it has gone to the liver, as it usuallv 
does with susceptible old men. It is a pity he feels 
things so. I told him so myself; I said, * Be passionate, 
there is no harm in that, but as for taking things to 
heart — draw the line at that ! It is the way to kill your- 
self.' — Really, I would not have expected him to tate on 
so about it ; a man that has sense enough and experience 
enough to keep away as he does while he digests his 
dinner " 

* " But what is the matter ? " inquired Mile. Chocar- 

^^^That little baggage with whom I dined has cleared 
out and left him ! . . . Yes. Gave him the slip with- 
out any warning but a letter, in which the spelling was 
all to seek." 

*" There, Daddy Croizeau, you see what comes of 
boring a woman " 

*"It is indeed a lesson, my pretty lady," said the 
guileful Croizeau. ^^ Meanwhile, I have never seen a 
man in such a state. Our friend Denisart cannot tell 
his left hand from his right ; he will not go back to look 
at the ^ scene of his happiness,' as he calls it. He has so 
thoroughly lost his wits, that he proposes that I should 
buy all Hortense's furniture (Hortense was her name) 
for four thousand francs." 

*" A pretty name," said Antonia. 

*"Yes. Napoleon's step-daughter was called Hor- 
tense. I built carriages for her, as you know." 

* " Very well, I will see," said cunning Antonia ; 
" begin by sending this young woman to me." 

* Antonia hurried ofF to see the furniture, and came 
back fascinated. She brought Maxime under the spell 
of antiquarian enthusiasm. That very evening the 

134 A Man of Business 

Count agreed to the sale of the reading-room. The 
establishment, you see, nominally belonged to Mile. 
Chocardelle. Maxime burst out laughing at the idea 
of little Croizeau's finding; him a buyer. The firm of 
Maxime and Chocardelle was losing two thousand 
francs, it is true, but what was the loss compared with 
four glorious thousand-franc notes in hand ? ^^ Four 
thousand francs of live coin ! — there are moments in 
one's life when one would sign bills for eight thousand 
to get them," as the Count said to me. 

^Two days later the Count must see the furniture 
himself, and took the four thousand francs upon 
him. The sale had been arranged ; thanks to little 
Croizeau's diligence, he pushed matters on ; he had 
^^ come round " the vridow, as he expressed it. It was 
Maxime's intention to have all the furniture removed at 
once to a lodging in a new house in the Rue Tronchet, 
taken in the name of Mme. Ida Bonamy ; he did not 
trouble himself much about the nice old man that was 
about to lose his thousand francs. But he had sent 
beforehand for several big furniture vans. 

^ Once again he was fascinated by the beautiful furni- 
ture which a wholesale dealer would have valued at six 
thousand francs. By the fireside sat the wretched owner, 
yellow with jaundice, his head tied up in a couple of 
printed handkerchiefs, and a cotton night-cap on the top 
of them ; he was huddled up in wrappings like a chande- 
lier, exhausted, unable to speak, and altogether so knocked 
to pieces that the Count was obliged to transact his busi- 
ness with the man-servant. When he had paid down 
the four thousand francs, and the servant had taken the 
money to his master for a receipt, Maxime turned to 
tell the man to call up the vans to the door ; but even as 
he spoke, a voice like a rattle sounded in his ears. 

* " It is not worth while. Monsieur le Comte. You 
and I are quits ; I have six hundred and thirty francs 
fifteen centimes to give you ! *' 

■'• ■■ V 'li 

\ , 

A Man of Business 135 

^ To his utter consternation, he saw Cerizet, emerged 
from his wrappings like a butterfly from the chrysalis, 
holding out the accursed bimdle of documents. 

* ** When I was down on my luck, I learned to act on 
the stage,^ added Cerizet. ^^ I am as good as BoufFe at 
old men." 

*"I have fallen among thieves ! " shouted Maxime. 

* " No, Monsieur le Comte, you are in Mile. Hor- 
tense's house. She is a friend of old Lord Dudley's ; he 
keeps her hidden away here ; but she has the bad taste to 
like your humble servant." 

*" If ever I longed to kill a man," so the Count told 
me afterwards, ^^ it was at that moment ; but what could 
one do ? Hortense showed her pretty face, one had to 
laugh. To keep my dignity, I flung her the six hun- 
dred francs. * There 's for the girl,* said I." * 

* That is Maxime all over ! * cried La Palferine. 

^ More especially as it was little Croizeau's money,' 
added Cardot the profound. 

* Maxime scored a trumph,' continued Desroches, 
* for Hortense exclaimed, ** Oh ! if I had only known that 
it was you ! " * 

* A pretty ** confusion " indeed ! ' put in Malaga. 
^You have lost, milord,' she added, turning to the 

And in this way the cabinetmaker, to whom Malaga 
owed a hundred crowns, was paid. 

Paris, 1845. 


To Madame la Princesse Cristina de Bilgiojoso^ nee 


To know how to sell, to be able to sell, and to sell. People 
generally do not suspect how much of the stateliness of 
Paris is due to these three aspects of the same problem. 
The brilliant display of shops as rich as the salons of the 
noblesse before 1 789 ; the splendours of cafes which 
eclipse, and easily eclipse, the Versailles of our day ; the 
shop-window illusions, new every morning, nightly 
destroyed ; the grace and elegance of the young men that 
come in contact with fair customers ; the piquant faces 
and costumes of young damsels, who cannot fiul to 
attract the masculine customer; and (and this especially 
of late) the length, the vast spaces, the Babylonish 
luxury of galleries where shopkeepers acquire a mono- 
poly of the trade in various articles by bringing them all 
together, — all this is as nothing. Everything, so far, 
has been done to appeal to a single sense, and that 
the most exacting and jaded human faculty, a &culty 
developed ever since the days of the Roman Empire, 
until, in our own times, thanks to the efforts of the 
most fastidious civilisation the world has yet seen, its 
demands are grown limitless. That faculty resides in 
the * eyes of Paris.' 

Those eyes require illuminations costing a hundred 
thousand francs, and many-coloured glass palaces a 
couple of miles long and sixty feet high ; they must have 


Gaudissart II 137 

a fairyland at some fourteen theatres every night, and a 
succession of panoramas and exhibitions of the triumphs 
of art i for them a whole world of suffering and pain, 
and a universe of joy, must revolve through the boule- 
vards or stray through the streets of Paris ; for them 
encyclopaedias of carnival frippery and a score of illus- 
trated books are brought out every year, to say nothing 
of caricatures by the hundred, and vignettes, lithographs, 
and prints by the thousand. To please those eyes, 
fifteen thousand francs' worth of gas must blaze every 
night ; and, to conclude, for their delectation the great 
city yearly spends several millions of francs in opening 
up views and planting trees. And even yet this is as 
nothing — it is only the material side of the question ; in 
truth, a mere trifle compared with the expenditure of 
brain power on the shifts, worthy of Moliere, invented by 
some sixty thousand assistants and forty thousand dam- 
sels of the counter, who fasten upon the customer's 
purse, much as myriads of Seine whitebait fall upon a 
chance crust floating down the river. 

Gaudissart in the mart is at least the equal of his 
illustrious namesake, now become the typical com- 
mercial traveller. Take him away from his shop and 
his line of business, he is like a collapsed balloon ; 
only among his bales of merchandise do his faculties 
return, much as an actor is sublime only upon the 
boards. A French shopman is better educated than his 
fellows in other European countries; he can at need 
talk asphalt, Bal Mabille, polkas, literature, illustrated 
books, railways, politics, parliament, and revolution ; 
transplant him, take away his stage, his yard-stick, his 
artificial graces; he is foolish beyond belief; but on his 
own boards, on the tight-rope of the counter, as he 
displays a shawl with a speech at his tongue's end, and 
his eye on his customer, he puts the great Talleyrand 
into the shade ; he has more wit than a Desaugiers, 
more wiles than Cleopatra ; he is a match for a Mon- 

138 Gaudissart II 

rose and a Moliere to boot. Talleyrand in his own 
house would have outwitted Gaudissart, but in the shop 
the parts would have been reversed. 

An incident will illustrate the paradox. 

Two charming duchesses were chatting with the 
above-mentioned great diplomatist. The ladies wished 
for a bracelet ; they were waiting for the arrival of a 
man from a great Parisian jeweller. A Gaudissart accord- 
ingly appeared with three bracelets of marvellous work- 
manship. The great ladies hesitated. Choice is a 
mental lightning flash ; hesitate — there is no more to be 
said, you are at fault. Inspiration in matters of taste 
will not come twice. At last, after about ten minutes, 
the Prince was called in. He saw the two duchesses 
confronting doubt with its thousand facets, unable to 
decide between the transcendent merits of two of the 
trinkets, for the third had been set aside at once. 
Without leaving his book, without a glance at the 
bracelets, the Prince looked at the jeweller's assistant. 

* Which would you choose for your sweetheart?' 
asked he. 

The young man indicated one of the pair. 

^ In that case, take the other, you will make two 
women happy,' said the subtlest of modern diplomatists, 
^ and make your sweetheart happy too, in my name.' 

The two hiT ladies smiled, and the young shopman 
took his departure, delighted with the Prince's present 
and the implied compliment to his taste. 

A woman alights from her splendid carriage before 
one of the expensive shops where shawls are sold in the 
Rue Vivienne. She is not alone ; women almost always 
go in pairs on these expeditions ; always make the round 
of half a score of shops before they make up their minds, 
and laugh together in the intervals over the little 
comedies played for their benefit. Let us see which of 
the two acts most in character — the fair customer or 
the seller, and which has the best of it in such miniature 
vaudevilles ? 

Gaudissart II 139 

If you attempt to describe a sale, the central fact of 
Parisian trade, you are in duty bound, if you attempt 
to give the gist of the matter, to produce a type, and 
for this purpose a shawl or a chatelaine costing some 
three thousand francs is a more exciting purchase than 
a length of lawn or dress that costs three hundred. 
But know, oh foreign visitors from the Old World and 
the New (if ever this study of the physiology of the 
Invoice should be by you perused), that this selfsame 
comedy is played in haberdashers' shops over a barege at 
two francs or a printed muslin at four francs the yard. 

And you, princess, or simple citizen's wife, whichever 
you may be, how should you distrust that good-looking, 
very young man, with those frank, innocent eyes, and a 
cheek like a peach covered with down ? He is dressed 
almost as well as your — cousin, let us say. His tones 
are as soft as the woollen stufFs which he spreads before 
you. There are three or four more of his like. One 
has dark eyes, a decided expression, and an imperial 
manner of saying, ^ This is what you wish ' ; another, 
that blue-eyed youth, diffident of manner and meek of 
speech, prompts the remark, ^ Poor boy ! he was not 
born for business ' ; a third, with light auburn hair, and 
laughing tawny eyes, has all the lively humour, and 
activity, and gaiety of the South ; while the fourth, 
he of the tawny red hair and fan-shaped beard, is rough 
as a communist, with his portentous cravat, his sternness, 
his dignity, and curt speech. 

These varieties of shopmen, corresponding to the 
principal types of feminine customers, are arms, as it 
were, directed by the head, a stout personage with a 
full-blown countenance, a partially bald forehead, and a 
chest measure befitting a Ministerialist deputy. Occa- 
sionally this person wears the ribbon of the Legion of 
Honour in recognition of the manner in which he 
supports the dignity of the French draper's wand. 
From the comfortable curves of his figure you can see 

140 Gaudissart II 

that he has a wife and family, a country house, and an 
account with the Bank of France. He descends like 
a deus ex machina^ whenever a tangled problem demands 
a swift solution. The feminine purchasers are sur- 
rounded on all sides with urbanity, youth, pleasant 
manners, smiles, and Jests ; the most seeming-simple 
human products of civilisation are here, all sorted in 
shades to suit all tastes. 

Just one word as to the natural effects of architecture, 
optical science, and house decoration ; one short, decisive, 
terrible word, of history made on the spot. The work 
which contains this instructive page is sold at number 
76 Rue de Richelieu, where above an elegant shop, all 
white and gold and crimson velvet, there is an entre-sol 
into which the light pours straight from the Rue de 
Menars, as into a painter's studio — clean, clear, even day- 
light. What idler in the streets has not beheld the Persian, 
that Asiatic potentate, ruffling it above the door at the 
corner of the Rue de la Bourse and the Rue de Riche- 
lieu, with a message to deliver urbi et orbiy ' Here I reign 
more tranquilly than at Lahore ' ? Perhaps but for this 
immortal analytical study, archaeologists might begin to 
puzzle their heads about him five hundred years hence, 
and set about writing quartos with plates (like M. 
Quatremere's work on Olympian Jove) to prove that 
Napoleon was something of a Sofi in the East before he 
became * Emperor of the French.' Well, the wealthy 
shop laid siege to the poor little entce-sol; and after 
a bombardment with bank-notes, entered and took 
possession. The Human Comedy gave way before 
the comedy of cashmeres. The Persian sacrificed a 
diamond or two from his crown to buy that so necessary 
daylight ; for a ray of sunlight shows the play of the 
colours, brings out the charms of a shawl, and doubles 
its value ; 'tis an irresistible light ; literally, a golden 
ray. From this fact you may judge how far Paris shops 
are arranged with a view to effect. 

Gaudissart II 141 

But to return to the young assistants, to the be- 
ribboned man of forty whom the King of the French 
receives at his table, to the red-bearded head of the 
department with his autocrat's air. Week by week 
these emeritus Gaudissarts are brought in contact with 
whims past counting; they know every vibration of 
the cashmere chord in the heart of woman. No one, be 
she lady or lorette, a young mother of a family, a 
respectable tradesman's wife, a woman of easy virtue, 
a duchess or a brazen-fronted ballet-dancer, an innocent 
young girl or a too innocent foreigner, can appear in 
the shop, but she is watched from the moment when 
she first lays her fingers upon the door-handle. Her 
measure is taken at a glance by seven or eight men that 
stand, in the windows, at the counter, by the door, in 
a corner, or in the middle of the shop, meditating, to 
all appearance, on the joys of a bacchanalian Sunday 
holiday. As you look at them, you ask yourself involun- 
tarily, * What can they be thinking about ? ' Well, in 
the space of one second, a woman's purse, wishes, inten- 
tions, and whims are ransacked more thoroughly than a 
travelling carriage at a frontier in an hour and three- 
quarters. Nothing is lost on these intelligent rogues. 
As they stand, solemn as noble fathers on the stage, 
they take in all the details of a fair customer's dress ; an 
invisible speck of mud on a little shoe, an antiquated 
hat-brim, soiled or ill-judged bonnet-strings, the fashion 
of the dress, the age of a pair of gloves. They can tell 
whether the gown was cut by the intelligent scissors of 
a Victorine iv. ; they know a modish gewgaw or a 
trinket from Froment-Meurice. Nothing, in short, 
which can reveal a woman's quality, fortune, or character 
passes unremarked. 

Tremble before them. Never was the Sanhedrim of 
Gaudissarts, with their chief at their head, known to 
make a mistake. And, moreover, they communicate 
their conclusions to one another with telegraphic speed, 

142 Gaudissart II 

in a glance, a smile, the movement of a muscle, a twitch 
of the lip. If you watch them, you are reminded of the 
sudden outbreak of light along the Champs Elysees at 
dusk ; one gas-jet does not succeed another more swiftly 
than an idea flashes from one shopman's eyes to the next. 

At once, if the lady is English, the dark, mysterious, 
portentous Gaudissart advances like a romantic character 
out of one of Byron's poems. 

If she is a city madam, the oldest is put forward. He 
brings out a hundred shawls in fifteen minutes; he 
turns her head with colours and patterns ; every shawl 
that he shows her is like a circle described by a kite 
wheeling round a hapless rabbit, till at the end of half 
an hour, when her head is swimming and she is utterly 
incapable of making a decision for herself, the good lady, 
meeting with a flattering response to all her ideas, refers 
the question to the assistant, who promptly leaves her 
on the horns of a dilemma between two equally irre- 
sistible shawls. 

^This, madame, is very becoming — apple-green, the 
colour of the season ; still, fashions change ; while as for 
this other black-and-white shawl (an opportunity not to 
be missed), you will never see the end of it, and it will 
go with any dress.' 

This is the A B C of the trade. 

^You would not believe how much eloquence is 
wanted in that beastly line,' the head Gaudissart of this 
particular establishment remarked quite lately to two 
acquaintances (Duronceret and Bixiou) who had come 
trusting in his judgment to buy a shawl. ' Look here ; 
you are artists and discreet, I can tell you about the 
governor's tricks, and of all the men I ever saw, he is 
the cleverest. I do not mean as a manufacturer, there 
M. Fritot is first ; but as a salesman. He discovered 
the 'Selim shawl,' an absolutely unsaleable article, yet 
we never bring it out but we sell it. We keep always 
a shawl worth five or six hundred francs in a cedar-wood 

Gaudissart II 143 

box, perfectly plain outside, but lined with satin. It is one 
of the shawls that Selim sent to the Emperor Napoleon. 
It is our Imperial Guard; it is brought to the front 
whenever the day is almost lost ; il se vend et ne meurt 
pas — ^it sells its life dearly time after time.' 

As he spoke, an Englishwoman stepped from her 
jobbed carriage and appeared in all the glory of that 
phlegmatic humour peculiar to Britain and to all its 
products which make believe they are alive. The appa- 
rition put you in mind of the Commandant's statue in 
Don Juany it walked along, jerkily by fits and starts, in 
an awkward fashion invented in London, and cultivated 
in every family with patriotic care. 

^ An Englishwoman f ' he continued for Bixiou's ear. 
^ An Englishwoman is our Waterloo. There are women 
who slip through our fingers like eels ; we catch them 
on the staircase. There ar& lorettes who chaiF us, we join 
in the laugh, we have a hold on them because we give 
credit. There are sphinx-like foreign ladies ; we take a 
quantity of shawls to their houses, and arrive at an 

understanding by flattery ; but an Englishwoman ! 

you might as well attack the bronze statue of Louis 
Quatorze ! That sort of woman turns shopping into 
an occupation, an amusement. She quizzes us, for- 
sooth ! ' 

The romantic assistant came to the front. 

^ Does madame wish for real Indian shawls or French, 
something expensive or ' 

* I will see.' {Je veraie.) 

* How much would madame propose ' 

* I will see.' 

The shopman went in quest of shawls to spread upon 
the mantle-stand, giving his colleagues a significant 
glance. ' What a bore ! ' he said plainly, with an almost 
imperceptible shrug of the shoulders. 

'These are our best quality in Indian red, blue, 
and pale orange — all at ten thousand francs. Here 

144 Gaudissart II 

are shawls at fire thousand francs, and others at 

The Englishwoman took up her eveglass and kx>ked 
round the room with gloomy indifference; then she 
submitted the three stands to the same scrutiny, and 
made no sign. 

^ Have you any more ? ' ( Havaivod^hotet) demanded she. 

^ Yes, madame. But perhaps madame has not quite 
decided to take a shawl ? " 

* Oh, quite decided ' {trei-deyddai). 

The young man went in search of cheaper wares. 
These he spread out solemnly as if they were things of 
price, saying bv his manner, ^ Pay attention to all this 
magnificence ! 

' These are much more expensive,' said he. ^ They 
have never been worn; they have come by courier 
direct from the manufiicturers at Lahore.* 

' Oh ! I see,' said she ; ^ they are much more like the 
thing I want.' 

The shopman kept his countenance in spite of inward 
irritation, which communicated itself to Duronceret and 
Bixiou. The Englishwoman, cool as a cucumber, 
appeared to rejoice m her phlegmatic humour. 

^ What price ? ' she asked, indicating a sky-blue shawl 
covered with a pattern of birds nestling in pagodas. 

^ Seven thousand fiancs.' 

She took it up, wrapped it about her shoulders, looked 
in the glass, and handed it back again. 

^ No, I do not like it at all.' (// n^ame pouinte.) 

A long quarter of an hour went by in trying on 
other shawls ; to no purpose. 

^This is all we have, madame,' said the assistant, 
glancing at the master as he spoke. 

^ Madame is fiistidious, like all persons of taste,' said 
the head of the establishment, coming forward with that 
tradesman's suavity in which pomposity is agreeably 
blended with subservience. The Englishwoman took 

Gaudissart II 145 

up her eyeglass and scanned the manufacturer from head 
to foot, unwilling to understand that the man before her 
was eligible for Parliament and dined at the Tuileries. 

'I have only one shawl left,' he continued, *but I 
never show it. It is not to everybody's taste ; it is 
quite out of the common. I was thinking this morning 
of giving it to my wife. We have had it in stock since 
1805 ; it belonged to the Empress Josephine.' 

* Let me see it, monsieur.* 

' Go for it,' said the master, turning to a shopman. 
* It is at my house.' 

*I should be very much pleased to see it,' said the 
English lady. 

This was a triumph. The splenetic dame was appa- 
rently on the point of going. She made as though she 
saw nothing but the shawls ; but all the while she fur- 
tively watched the shopmen and the two customers, 
sheltering her eyes behind the rims of her eyeglasses. 

' It cost sixty thousand francs in Turkey, madame.' 

' Oh ! ' {hdu !) 

^ It is one of seven shawls which Selim sent, before his 
fell, to the Emperor Napoleon. The Empress Jose- 
phine, a Creole, as you know, my lady, and very 
capricious in her tastes, exchanged this one for another 
brought by the Turkish ambassador, and purchased by 
my predecessor ; but I have never seen the money back. 
Our ladies in France are not rich enough ; it is not as it is 
in England. The shawl is worth seven thousand francs ; 
and taking interest and compound interest altogether, it 
makes up fourteen or fifteen thousand by now ' 

' How does it make up ? ' asked the Englishwoman. 

* Here it is, madame.' 

With precautions, which a custodian of the Dresden 
Grune Gewolbe might have admired, he took out an 
infinitesimal key and opened a square cedar-wood box. 
The Englishwoman was much impressed with its shape 
and plainness. From that box, lined with black satin, 


146 Gaudissart II 

he drew a shawl worth about fifteen hundred francs, a 
black pattern on a golden-yellow ground, of which the 
surtling colour was only surpassed by the surprising 
efforts of the Indian imagination. 

* Splendid/ said the lady, in a mixture of French and 
English, ' it is really handsome. Just my ideal ' (idhl) * of 
a shawl ; it is rery magnificent.' The rest was lost in 
a madonna's pose assumed for the purpose of displaying 
a pair of fngid eyes which she believed to be very fine. 

^ It was a ereat favourite with the Emperor Napoleon ; 
he took ' 

^A great favourite,' repeated she with her English 
accent. Then she arranged the shawl about her 
shoulders and looked at herself in the glass. The pro- 
prietor took it to the light, gathered it up in his hands, 
smoothed it out, showed the gloss on it, played on it as 
Liszt plays on the pianoforte keys. 

^ It is very fine ; beautiful, sweet ! ' said the lady, as 
composedly as possible. 

Duronceret, Bixiou, and the shopmen exchanged 
amused elances. ' The shawl is sold,' they thought. 

^ Well, madame ? ' inquired the proprietor, as the 
Englishwoman appeared to be absorbed in meditations 
infinitely prolonged. 

' Decidedly,' said she ; ^I would rather have a carriage ' 
{une voteure). 

All the assistants, listening with silent rapt attention, 
started as one man, as if an elettric shock had gone 
through them. 

^ I have a very handsome one, madame,' said the pro- 
prietor with unshaken composure ; ^ it belonged to a 
Russian princess, the Princess Narzicof ; she left it 
with me in payment for goods received. If madame 
would like to see it, she would be astonished. It is new ; 
it has not been in use altogether for ten days ; there is 
not its like in Paris.' 

The shopmen's amazement was suppressed by pro- 
found admiration. 

Gaudissart II 147 

* I am quite willing.' 

^ If madame will keep the shawl,' suggested the pro- 
prietor, ' she can try the effect in the carriage.' And he 
went for his hat and gloves. 

^ How will this end f ' asked the head assistant, as he 
watched his employer offer an arm to the English lady 
and go down with her to the jobbed brougham. 

By this time the thing had come to be as exciting as 
the uist chapter of a novel for Duronceret and Bixiou, 
even without the additional interest attached to all 
contests, however trifling, between England and France. 

Twenty minutes later the proprietor returned. 

^ Go to the Hotel Lawson (here is the card, *^ Mrs. 
Noswell "}, and take an invoice that I will give you. 
There are six thousand francs to take.' 

^How did you do it?^ asked Duronceret, bowing 
before the king of invoices. 

^ Oh, I saw what she was, an eccentric woman that 
loves to be conspicuous. As soon as she saw that 
every one stared at her, she said, ^^Keep your car- 
riage, monsieur, my mind is made up ; I will take the 
shawL" While M. Bigorneau (indicating the romantic- 
looking assistant) was serving, I watched her carefully } 
she kept one eye on you aQ the time to see what you 
thought of her ; she was thinking more about you than 
of the shawk. Englishwomen are peculiar in their 
distaste (for one cannot call it taste) ; they do not know 
what they want; they make up their minds to be 
guided by circumstances at the time, and not by their 
own choice. I saw the kind of woman at once, tired of 
her husband, tired of her brats, regretfully virtuous, 
craving excitement, always posing as a weeping 
willow. . . .' 

These were his very words. 

Which proves that in all other countries of the world 
a shopkeeper is a shopkeeper ; while in France, and in 
Paris more particularly, he is a student from a College 

148 Gaudissart II 

Royal, a well-read man with a taste for art, or anglings 
or the theatre, and consumed, it may be, with a desire to 
be M. Cunin-Gridaine's successor, or a colonel of the 
National Guard, or a member of the General Council of 
the Seine, or a referee in the Commercial Court. 

^ M. Adolphe,' said the mistress of the establishment, 
addressing the slight fair-haired assistant, ^go to the 
joiner and order another cedar-wood box.' 

^ And now,' remarked the shopman who had assisted 
Duronceret and Bixiou to choose a shawl for Mme. 
Schontz, ^ now we will go through our old stock to find 
another Selim shawl.' 

Pari I, NovemUr 1844. 



To whoniy Madame^ but to you should I inscribe 
this work; to you whose lofty and candid in^ 
tellect is a treasury to your friends ; to you that 
are to me not only a whole public^ but the most 
indulgent of sisters as well? IVill you deign to 
accept a token of the friendship of which I am 
proud t Touj and some few souls as noble j will 
grasp the whole of the thought underlying The 
Firm of Nucingen, appended to Cesar Birotteau. 
Is there not a whole social lesson in the contrast 
between the two stories ? 

De Balzac. 

You know how slight the partitions are between the 
private rooms of fashionable restaurants in Paris ; Very*s 
largest room, for instance, is cut in two by a removable 
screen. This Scene is not laid at Very's, but in snug 
quarters, which for reasons of my own I forbear to 
specify. We were two, so I will say, like Henri 
Monnier's Prudhomme, ^ I should not like to compro- 
mise her ! ' 

We had remarked the want of solidity in the wall- 
structure, so we talked with lowered voices as we sat 
together in the little private room, lingering over the 
dainty dishes of a dinner exquisite in more senses than 
one. We had come as far as the roast, however^ and 


150 The Firm of Nudngen 

itill we had no neighbours ; no sound came from the 
next room save the crackline of the fire. But when the 
clock struck eight, we heard voices and noisy footsteps ; 
the waiters brought candles. Evidently there was a psuiy 
assembled in the next room, and at the first words 1 
knew at once with whom we had to do— four bold 
cormorants as ever sprang from the foam on the crests of 
the ever-rising waves of this present generation — four 
pleasant young fellows whose existence was problemati- 
cal, since they were not known to possess either stock 
or landed estates, yet they lived, and lived well. These 
ingenious condottieri of a modern industrialism, that has 
come to be the most ruthless of all warfares, leave 
anxieties to their creditors, and keep the pleasures for 
themselves. They are careful for nothing, save dress. 
Still, with courage of the Jean Bart order, that will smoke 
cigars on a barrel of powder (perhaps by way of keeping 
up their character), with a quizzing humour that outdoes 
the minor newspapers, sparing no one, not even them- 
selves ; clear-sighted, wary, keen after business, grasping 
yet open-handed, envious yet self-complacent, profound 
politicians by fits and starts, analysing everything, guess- 
ing everythmg — not one of these in question as yet had 
contrived to make his way in the world which they 
chose for their scene of operations. Only one of the 
four, indeed, had succeeded in coming as far as the foot 
of the ladder. 

To have money is nothing ; the self-made man only 
finds out all that he lacks after six months of flatteries. 
Andoche Finot, the self-made man in question, stiflF, 
taciturn, cold, and dull-witted, possessed the sort of spirit 
which will not shrink from grovelling before any 
creature that may be of use to him, and the cunning to 
be insolent when he needs a man no longer. Like one 
of the grotesque figures in the ballet in Gustaviy he was 
a marquis behind, a boor in front. And this high- 
priest of commerce had a following. 

The Firm of Nucingen 1 5 1 

Eoiile Blondet, Tournalist, with abundance of intel- 
lectual power, reduess, brilliant, and indolent, could do 
anything that he chose, yet he submitted to be exploited 
with his eyes open. Treacherous or kind upon im- 
pulse, a man to love, but not to respect ; quick-witted 
as a sinbrettBy unable to refuse his pen to any one that 
asked, or his heart to the first that would borrow it, 
Emile was the most £ucinating of those light-of-loves of 
whom a fimtastic modern wit declared that ^ he liked 
them better in satin slippers than in boots.' 

The third in the party. Couture by name, lived by 
speculation, grafting one afiairupon another to make 
the gains pay for the losses. He was always between 
wind and water, keeping himself afloat by his bold, 
sudden strokes and the nervous energy of his play. 
Hither and thither he would swim over the vast sea of 
interests in Paris, in quest of some little isle that should 
be so £»* a debatable land that he might abide upon it. 
Clearly Couture was not in his proper place. 

As for the fourth and most malicious personage, his 
name will be enough — it was Bixiou ! Not (alas !) the 
Bixiou of 1825, but the Bixiou of 1836, a misanthropic 
buffoon, acknowledged supreme, by reason of his ener- 
getic and caustic wit ; a very fiend let loose now that he 
saw how he had squandered his intellect in pure waste ; 
a Bixiou vexed by the thought that he had not come by 
his share of the wreckage in the last Revolution ; a 
Bixiou with a kick for every one, like Pierrot at the 
Funambules. Bixiou had the whole history of his own 
times at his finger-ends, more particularly its scandalous 
chronicle, embellished by added waggeries of his own. 
He sprang like a clown upon everybody's back, only to 
do his utmost to leave the executioner's brand upon 
evory pair of shoulders. 

Tne first cravings of gluttony satisfied, our neigh- 
bours reached the stage at which we also had arrived, 
to wit, the dessert; and, as we made no sign, they 

The Firm of Nucingen 153 

Bixiou's changes of voice, as he acted the parts of the 
various persons, must have been perfect, judging by the 
applause and admiring comments that broke from his 
audience of three. 

^ Then did Rastignac refuse ? ' asked Blondet, appar- 
ently addressing Finot. 

* Point blank.' 

' But did you threaten him with the newspapers ? ' 
asked Bixiou. 

* He began to laugh,' returned Finot. 

^ Rastignac is the late lamented de Marsay's direct 
heir ; he will make his way politically as well as socially,' 
commented Blondet. 

' But how did he make his money ? ' asked Couture. 
^In 1 819 both he and the illustrious Bianchon lived in a 
shabby boarding-house in the Latin Quarter ; his people 
ate roast cockchafers and drank their own wine so as to 
send him a hundred francs every month. His father's 
property was not worth a thousand crowns ; he had two 
sisters and a brother on his hands, and now ' 

' Now he has an income of forty thousand livres,' con- 
tinued Finot ; ^ his sisters had a handsome fortune apiece 
and married into noble families ; he leaves his mother a 
life interest in the property ' 

'Even in 1827 I have known him without a penny,' 
said Blondet. 

' Oh ! in 1827,' 5^'^ Bixiou. 

* Well,' resumed Finot, * yet to-day, as we see, he is in 
a fair way to be a Minister, a peer of France — anything 
that he likes. He broke decently with Delphine three 
years ago ; he will not marry except on good grounds j 
and he may marry a girl of noble family. The chap 
had the sense to take up with a wealthy woman.' 

*My friends, give him the benefit of extenuating 
circumstances,' urged Blondet. ' When he escaped the 
clutches of want, he dropped into the claws of a very 
clever man.' 

1 54 The Firm of Nucingen 

f You know what Nucingen it/ said Bixiou« ^ In the 
early days, Delphine and Rastignac thought him ^ good- 
natured " ; he seemed to regard a wife as a phivthinfl;, an 
ornament in his house. And that very £ict snowed me 
that the man was square at the base as well as in heieht,' 
added Bixiou. 'Nucingen makes no bones about 
admitting that his wife is his fortune ; she is aui indis- 
pensable chattel, but a wife takes a second place in the 
high-pressure life of a political leader and great capitalist. 
He once said in my hearing that Bonaparte had 
blundered like a bourgeois in his early relations with 
Josephine ; and that after he had had the spirit to use 
her as a stepping-stone, he had made himself ridiculous 
by trying to make a companion of her.' 

'Any man of unusual powers is bound to take 
Oriental views of women/ said Blondet. 

' The Baron blended the opinions of East and West 
in a charming Parisian creed. He abhorred de Marsay ; 
de Marsay was unmanageable, but with Rastignac he was 
much pleased ; he exploited him, though Rastienac was 
not aware of it. All the burdens of married life were 
put on him. Rastignac bore the brunt of Delphine's 
whims ; he escorted her to the Bois de Boulogne ; he 
went with her to the play ; and the little politician and 
great man of to-day spent a good deal of his life at that 
time in writing dainty notes. Eugene was scolded for 
little nothings from the first; he was in good spirits 
when Delphine was cheerful, and drooped when she 
felt low ; he bore the weight of her confidences and 
her ailments ; he gave up his time, the hours of his 
precious youth, to fill the empty void of that fair 
Parisian's idleness. Delphine and he held high councib 
on the toilettes which went best together ; he stood the 
fire of bad temper and broadsides of pouting fits, while 
she, by way of trimming the balance, was verv nice to 
the Baron. As for the Baron, he laughed in his sleeve ; 
but whenever he saw that Rastignac was bending under 

The Firm of Nucingen 155 

the strain of the burden, he made ^^as if he suspected 
something," and reunited the lovers by a common 

^ I can imagine that a wealthy wife would have put 
Rastig^ac in the way of a living, and an honourable 
living, but where did he pick up his fortune ? ' asked 
Couture. * A fortune so considerable as his at the pre- 
sent day must come from somewhere ; and nobody ever 
accused him of inventing a good stroke of business.' 

^Somebody left it to him,' said Finot. 

« Who ? ' asked Blondet. 

*Some fool that he came across,' suggested Couture. 

^ He did not steal the whole of it, my little dears,' 
said Bixiou. 

* Let not your terrors rise to fever-heat. 
Our age is lenient with those that cheat. 

Now, I will tell you about the beginnings of his for- 
tune. In the first place, honour to talent 1 Our friend 
is not a ^' chap," as Finot describes him, but a gentleman 
in the English sense, who knows the cards and knows 
the game ; whom, moreover, the gallery respects. Ras- 
dgnac has quite as much intelligence as is needed at a 
given moment, as if a soldier should make his courage 
payable at ninety days' sight, with three witnesses and 
guarantees. He may seem captious, wrong-headed, in- 
consequent, vacillating, and without any fixed opinions ; 
but let something serious turn up, some combination to 
scheme out, he will not scatter himself like Blondet here, 
who chooses these occasions to look at things from his 
neighbour's point of view. Rastignac concentrates him- 
self, pulls himself together, looks for the point to carry 
by storm, and goes full tilt for it. He charges like a 
Murat, breaks squares, pounds away at shareholders, pro- 
moters, and the whole shop, and returns, when the breach 
is made, to his lazy, careless life. Once more he becomes 
the man of the South, the man of pleasure, the trifling, 

156 The Firm of Nudngen 

idle Rastdgnac He his earned die right of Ijing in bed 
till noon because a crisis never finds him asleep/ 

'So far so good, but just get to his fortune/ said 

' Biziou will dash that off at a stroke,' replied Blondet. 
^Rastignac*s fortune was Delphine de Nucingen, a 
remarkable wonun; she combines boldness with fore- 

' Did she ever lend you money ? * inquired Bixiou« 
Everybody burst out laughing. 

* I ou are mistaken in her, said Couture, speaking to 
Blondet ; ' her cleverness simply consist in making more 
or less piquant remarks, in loving Rastignac with tedious 
fidelity, and obeying him blindly. She is a regubr 

' Money apart,' Andoche Finot put in sourly. 

' Oh, come, come,' said Bixiou coaxingly ; ' after what 
we have just been saying, will you venture to blame 
poor Rastignac for living at the expense of the firm of 
Nucingen, for being installed in furnished rooms pre- 
cisely as La Torpille was once installed by our fnend 
des Lupeaulx ? You would sink to the vulgarity of the 
Rue Saint- Denis! First of all, "in the abstract," as 
Royer-Collard says, the question may abide the Kritik 
of Pure Reason ; as for the impure reason * 

* There he goes ! ' said Finot, turning to Blondet. 

' But there is reason in what he says,' exclaimed 
Blondet. ' The problem is a very old one ; it was the 
grand secret of the famous duel between La Chatai- 
gneraie and Jarnac. It was cast up to Jarnac that he was 
on good terms with his mother-in-law, who, loving him 
only too well, equipped him sumptuously. When a 
thing is so true, it ought not to be said. Out of devo- 
tion to Henry 11., who permitted himself this slander. 
La Ch^taigneraie took it upon himself, and there fol- 
lowed the duel which enriched the French language 
with the expression coup de Jarnac.^ 

The Firm of Nucingen 157 

' Oh ! does it go so far back ? Then it is noble ? ' 
said Finot. 

' As proprietor of newspapers and reviews of old stand- 
ing, you are not bound to know that,' said Biondet. 

* There are women,' Bixiou gravely resumed, * and for 
that matter, men too, who can cut their lives in two 
and give away but one-half, (Remark how I word my 
phrase for you in humanitarian language.) For these, 
all material interests lie without the range of senti- 
ment. They give their time, their life, their honour to 
a woman, and hold that between themselves it is not the 
thing to meddle with bits of tissue paper bearing the 
legend, *^ Forgery is punishable with death J*^ And equally 
they will take nothing from a woman. Yes, the whole 
thing is debased if fusion of interests follows on fusion of 
souls. This is a doctrine much preached, and very 
seldom practised.' 

* Oh, what rubbish ! ' cried Biondet. * The Marechal 
de Richelieu understood something of gallantry, and he 
settled an allowance of a thousand louis d'or on Mme. de 
la Popeliniere after that affair of the hiding-place behind 
the hearth. Agnes Sorel, in all simplicity, took her 
fortune to Charles vii., and the King accepted it. 
Jacques Coeur kept the crown for France ; he was 
allowed to do it, and, womanlike, France was un- 

^ Gentlemen,' said Bixiou, ^ a love that does not imply 
an indissoluble friendship, to my thinking, is momentary 
libertinage. What sort of entire surrender is it that 
keeps something back ? Between these two diametri- 
cally opposed doctrines, the one as profoundly immoral 
as the other, there is no possible compromise. It seems 
to me that any shrinking from a complete union is surely 
due to a belief that the union cannot last, and if so, fare- 
well to illusion. The passion that does not believe that 
it will last for ever is a hideous thing. (Here is pure 
unadulterated Fenelon for you !) At the same time, 

f6o J'h<; Viffu ttt Nucingen 

*WltMf flo yoM wmii with fhe wftiitrf' MiMrd 

Mil ti'^r ii|i my TO.!/, ;irifl ^-f my foii^fir, frr^/ 

*( hi nh wiflf your «»t</r)r/ ii;i|/| l'iri//f, mMbifif/ (MrlieVtf 

' I f;ikr y'Hi aU In wiiitt'%% liiiti I Mm not fh^r |yrfifMfrfy 

worth iM/ twtft' ih4n Uvt: huiit\i*'i\ itAitt%, Yom will 

%i\t'W9'%, '\ Im'M', my {f/ttn\ I'iit'/f/ Im: m'I«M %*HtlUUif(}ym 
*l wtW [ft'l ffii wiiii m/ %inty wilhnul |if rvmMlifie%| minI 
w*: %Ua\\ Im' /|iiif«/ 

' N//w/ V/iifl O/Mfiir^ wfflf M «mfk, * Ur will l»fif/iff f/« 
\itnvt: int nm \tt'itf'.Ul iUaI N(i/irif/^n m/i/j^: MM^fl^rijttS 

' V'ffi >ir«' itnl ^/ fiir 'iiif <i« yoti fhiiik/ r«fiifiiry<l 
Miffi'/M. ' Ynu tin itni ktinw wUaI Nuiiityr.h i%^ UuHlf 

' l/o ///Il inow v/ unuU »% A w'/fl ii4 fo hi% Uf.^Ut^ 
iiiiif/4^' <i^le''f| hl'/fi'lM, 

M Imv^: oi»I'/ kiinwh Uiin in lii« 'rwri hoii^/ «;iiJ 
Hixi'/iiy ' Ifiif w«: riM/ iMvr %t:fit pa* It tiih'.t in fh#^ Mreel 
III thf olrl fUy^/ 

''IIm- \m/%\tt:tiiy nl thf- firm ni NfiMiif/rn U 'm#; //f 
lU$: twf^l tHlfiinnlihAty fhiii^,^ ««r«'ii m f/iir «lMy!i/ Urf^i 
Hl'/iifl«'f. Mil iH'//^ NfiMif|/rir« iMim' wii« %4i»n$'.ly 
kntiwn, Al ihul Urn*- JMiikfrr^ wnuU\ fi«v«' %hutUU*,feA 
aI lUf*. \iU'A t,i lUft't' UnhtUt'ti iUiiu%Aw\ ifAitf^* wntlh ot 
U\% AH t'^/VAiif t'% th ih- ifMflcM, 'IIm- IC'x' f A\tilA\\%^ Mi 
\n% iniftinfilys tltr// wa^ Ut- In {tt-l itiittwn f 11^ «ii«< 
p«ii'l^/| |iM/iiiM)f. f iiHul ^ i',*/t ty ntiitkfl lAuy^ wffll II 
UAu\t' U\lh9finnu\y kiinwii in Llirf^}fOiii|/ >iii'l ih* ^ftjAffifif 
l'ni%tiniuiitft'» II'' i^^fiH tlr\HMl f tflitnAli'% ioit'i% ffffrfl* 
tor«, mi'l fr%um*'t\ \tAyttt*'nl \ Inflhw'ilU \trnuU'. fl^tew 
At t ti%lnini't\ In lii^ |m|/m hII tivn t'lAfitf., I Im;ii nii 

The Firm of Nucingen 1 6 1 

unheard-of thing happened — his paper revived, was in 
demand, and rose in value, Nucingen's paper was much 
inquired for. The year 1815 arrives, my banker calls in 
his capital, buys up Government stock before the battle 
of Waterloo, suspends payment again in the thick of the 
crisis, and meets his engagements with shares in the 
Wortschin mines, which he himself issued at twenty per 
cent, more than he gave for them ! Yes, gentlemen ! — 
He took a hundred and fifty thousand bottles of cham- 
pagne of Grandet to cover himself (foreseeing the failure 
of the virtuous parent of the present Comte d'Aubrion), 
and as much Bordeaux wine of Duberghe at the same 
time. Those three hundred thousand bottles which he 
took over (and took over at thirty sous a-piece, my dear 
boy) he supplied at the price of six francs per bottle to 
the Allies in the Palais Royal during the foreign occu- 
pation, between 1817 and 1819. Nucingen's name and 
his paper acquired a European celebrity. The illustrious 
Baron, so far from being engulfed like others, rose the 
higher for calamities. Twice his arrangements had 
paid holders of his paper uncommonly well ; he try to 
swindle them ? Impossible. He is supposed to be as 
honest a man as you will find. When he suspends pay- 
ment a third time, his paper will circulate in Asia, 
Mexico, and Australia, among the aborigines. No one 
but Ouvrard saw through this Alsacien banker, the son of 
some Jew or other converted by ambition ; Ouvrard said, 
"When Nucingen lets gold go, you may be sure that it 
is to catch diamonds." ' 

*His crony, du Tillet, is just such another,* said 
Finot. ^And, mind you, that of birth du Tillet has 
just precisely so much as is necessary to exist ; the chap 
had not a farthing in 18 14, and you see what he is 
now ; and he has done something that none of us has 
managed to do (I am not speaking of you. Couture), he 
has had friends instead of enemies. In fact, he has kept 
his past life so quiet, that unless you rake the sewers you 


1 62 The Firm of Nucingcn 

arc not likely to find out that he was an assistant in a 
perfumer's shop in the Rue Saint Honore, no further 
back than 1814/ 

' Tut, tut, tut ! ' said Bixiou, ^ do not think of com- 
paring Nucingen with a little dabbler like du Tillet, a 
jackal that gets on in life through his sense of smell. 
He scents a carcase by instinct, and comes in time to get 
the best bone. Besides, just look at the two men. The 
one has a sharp-pointed face like a cat, he is thin and 
lanky ; the other is cubical, fat, heavy as a sack, imper- 
turbable as a diplomatist. Nucingen has a thick, heavy 
hand, and lynx eyes that never light up ; his depths are 
not in front, but behind ; he is inscrutable, you never see 
what he is making for. Whereas du Tillet's cunning, 
as Napoleon said of somebody (I have forgotten the 
name), is like cotton spun too nne, it breaks.' 

^ I do not myself see that Nucingen has any advantage 
over du Tillet/ said Blondet, ' unless it is that he has the 
sense to see that a capitalist ought not to rise higher 
than a baron's rank, while du Tillet has a mind to be an 
Italian count.' 

* Blondet — one word, my boy,' put in Couture. ' In 
the first place, Nucingen dared to say that honesty is 
simply a question of appearances ; and secondly, to know 
him well you must be in business yourself. With him 
banking is but a single department, and a very small 
one ; he holds Government contracts for wines, wools, 
indigoes — anything, in short, on which any profit can be 
made. He has an all-round genius. The elephant of 
finance would contract to deliver votes on a division, or 
the Greeks to the Turks. For him business means the 
sum-total of varieties ; as Cousin would say, the unity of 
specialities. Looked at in this way, banking becomes a 
kind of statecraft in itself, requiring a powerful head ; 
and a man thoroughly tempered is drawn on to set 
himself above the laws of a morality that cramps him.' 

^ Right, my son,' said Blondet ; ^ but we, and we alone, 

The Firm of Nucingen 163 

can comprehend that this means bringing war into the 
financial world. A banker is a conquering general 
making sacrifices on a tremendous scale to gain ends 
that no one perceives ; his soldiers are private people's 
interests. He has stratagems to plan out, partisans to 
bring into the field, ambushes to set, towns to take. 
Most men of this stamp are so close upon the borders of 
politics, that in the end they are drawn into public life, 
and thereby lose their fortunes. The firm of Necker, 
for instance, was ruined in this way ; the famous Samuel 
Bernard was all but ruined. Some great capitalist in 
every age makes a colossal fortune, and leaves behind 
him neither fortune nor a family ; there was the firm 
of Paris Brothers, for instance, that helped to pull down 
Law; there was Law himself (beside whom other pro- 
moters of companies are but pigmies) ; there was Bouret 
and Beaujon — none of them left any representative. 
Finance, like Time, devours its own children. If the 
banker is to perpetuate himself, he must found a noble 
house, a dynasty ; like the Fuggers of Antwerp, that 
lent money to Charles v. and were created Princes of 
Babenhausen, a family that exists at this day — in the 
jllmanach de Gotha. The instinct* of self-preservation, 
working it may be unconsciously, leads the banker to 
seek a title. Jacques Coeur was the founder of the great 
noble house of Noirmoutier, extinct in the reign of 
Louis XIII. What power that man had ! He was 
ruined for making a legitimate king ; and he died, prince 
of an island in the Archipelago, where he built a magni- 
ficent cathedral.' 

^ Oh ! you are giving us a historical lecture, we are 
wandering away from the present ; the crown has no 
right of conferring nobility, and barons and counts are 
made with closed doors ; more is the pity ! ' said Finot. 

* You regret the times of the savonnette a vilain^ when 
you could buy an office that ennobled ? ' asked Bixiou. 
'You are right. Je reviens a nos moutons. — Do you 

r^ The Firm of Nucingen 

wivw Bcaudenord ? No ? no ? no ? Ah, well ! See 
lew X.1 :hings pass away ! Poor fellow, ten years aso 
ie mis :hc tlower of dandyism ; and now, so thoroughly 
iJ^c^>^: chat you no more know him than Finot just 
!vw cnew the origin of the expression ^^coupdejamac^ 
— 1 repeat chat simply for the sake of illustration, and 
ICC ro tease you, Finot. Well, it is a fact, he belonged 
:v :ac Faubourg Saint-Germain. 

* Scjudenord is the first pigeon that I will bring 
^1 chc scene. And, in the first place, his name was 
v.H>icrVoid de Beaudenord ; neither Finot, nor Blondet, 
icr Couture, nor I are likely to undervalue such an 
iuvxitJige as that ! After a ball, when a score of 
^cecv women stand behooded waiting for their car- 
•a^cs with their husbands and adorers at their sides, 
iciiuJcnord could hear his people called without a pang 
^x .nortilication. In the second place, he rejoiced in the 
uil complement of limbs ; he was whole and sound, had 
K> note in his eyes, no false hair, no artificial calves; he 
>«^x ucither knock-kneed nor bandy-legged, his dorsal 
^vHumii was straight, his waist slender, his hands white 
uio :»ha^x:ly. His hair was black ; he was of a com- 
HC\ion neither too pink, like a grocer's assistant, nor yet 
av brown, like a Calabrese. Finally, and this is an 
.-»9C<iiial point, Beaudenord was not too handsome, like 
vaic of our friends that look rather too much of profes- 
x.oaul beauties to be anything else ; but no more 
.•; that ; we have said it, it is shocking ! Well, 
V vHiU 4 crack shot, and sat a horse to admiration ; he 
w tought a duel for a trifle, and had not killed his 

' It vou wish to know in what pure, complete, and 

.^laoultciated happiness consists in this Nineteenth 

v'^aiui y in Paris — the happiness, that is to say, of a young 

u^a v*x twenty-six — do you realise that you must enter 

:i;o ihc infinitely small details of existence ? Beaudenord's 

Xv^aukcr had precisely hit ofF his style of foot ; he was 

The Firm of Nucingen 165 

well shod; his tailor loved to clothe him. Godefroid 
neither rolled his r's, nor lapsed into Normanisms nor 
Gascon ; he spoke pure and correct French, and tied 
his cravat correctly (like Finot). He had neither 
father nor mother — such luck had he! — and his guardian 
was the Marquis d'Aiglemont, his cousin by marriage. 
He could go among city people as he chose, and the 
Faubourg Saint-Germain could make no objection ; for, 
fortunately, a young bachelor is allowed to make his own 
pleasure his sole rule of life, he is at liberty to betake 
himself wherever amusement is to be found, and to shun 
the gloomy places where cares flourish and multiply. 
Finally, he had been vaccinated (you know what I mean, 

^And yet, in spite of all these virtues,' continued 
Bixiou, * he might very well have been a- very unhappy 
young man. Eh ! eh ! that word happiness, unhappily, 
seems to us to mean something absolute, a delusion 
which sets so many wiseacres inquiring what happiness 
is. A very clever woman said that '^Happiness was 
where you chose to put it."' 

^She formulated a dismal truth,' said Blondet. 

^ And a moral,' added Finot. 

^Double distilled,' said Blondet. 'Happiness, like 
Good, like Evil, is relative. Wherefore La Fontaine 
used to hope that in course of time the damned would 
feel as much at home in hell as a fish in water.' 

' La Fontaine's sayings are known in Philistia ! ' put 
in Bixiou. 

' Happiness at six-and-twenty in Paris is not the happi- 
ness of six-and-t wen ty at — say Blois,' continued Blondet, 
taking no notice of the interruption. ' And those that 
proceed from this text to rail at the instability of 
opinion are either knaves or fools for their pains. 
Modern medicine, which passed (it is its fairest title 
to glory) from a hypothetical to a positive science, 
through the influence of the great analytical school of 

1 66 The Firm of Nucingen 

Pm%f has proTcd beyond a doubt that a man is periodi- 
cally renewed throughout * 

^ New haft, new blade, like Jeannot's knife, and yet 
you think that he is still the same man,' broke in Bixiou. 
'So there are several lozenges in the harlequin's coat 
that we call happiness; and — well, there was neither 
hole nor stain in this Godefroid^s costume. A young 
man of six-and- twenty, who would be happy in love, 
who would be loved, that is to say, not for his blossom- 
ing youth, nor for his wit, nor for his figure, but spon- 
taneously, and not even merely in return for his own 
love ; a young man, I say, who has found love in the 
abstract, to quote Royer-Collard, might yet very possibly 
find never a farthing in the purse which She, loving and 
beloved, embroidered for him ; he might owe rent to his 
landlord ; he might be unable to pay the bootmaker before 
mentioned ; his very tailor, like France herself, might at 
last show signs of disaffection. In short, he might have 
love and yet be poor. And poverty spoils a young man's 
happiness, unless he holds our transcendental views of 
the fusion of interests. I know nothing more wearing 
than happiness within combined with adversity without. 
It b as if you had one leg freezing in the draught from 
the door, and the other half-roasted by a brazier — as I 
have at this moment. I hope to be understood. Comes 
there an echo from thy waistcoat-pocket, Blondet? 
Between ourselves, let the heart alone, it spoils the 

^Let us resume. Godefroid de Beaudenord was 
respected by his tradespeople, for they were paid with 
tolerable regularity. The witty woman before quoted 
^I cannot give her name, for she is still living, thanks 
to her want of heart ' 

< Who is this ? ' 

'The Marquise d'Espard. She said that a young 
man ought to live on an entre-sol ; there should be no 
sign of domesticity about the place; no cook, no kitchen, 

The Firm of Nucingen 167 

an old man-servant to wait upon him, and no pretence 
of a permanence. In her opinion, any other sort of 
establishment is bad form. Godefroid de Beaudenord, 
faithful to this programme, lodged on an entre-sol on 
the Quai Malaquais ; he had, however, been obliged to 
have this much in common with married couples, he 
had put a bedstead in his room, though for that matter 
it was so narrow that he seldom slept in it. An English- 
woman might have visited his rooms and found nothing 
" improper " there. Finot, vou have yet to learn the 
great law of the " Improper that rules Britain. But, 
for the sake of the bond between us — that bill for a 
thousand francs — I will just give you some idea of it. I 
have been in England myself. — I will give him wit 
enough for a couple of thousand,' he added in an aside 
to Blondet. 

*In England, Finot, you grow extremely intimate 
with a woman in the course of an evening, at a ball or 
wherever it is ; next day you meet her in the street and 
look as though you knew her again — " improper." — At 
dinner you discover a delightful man beneath your left- 
hand neighbour's dress-coat ; a clever man ; no high 
mightiness, no constraint, nothing of an Englishman 
about him. In accordance with the tradition of French 
breeding, so urbane, so gracious as they are, you address 
your neighbour — " improper." — At a ball you walk up 
to a pretty woman to ask her to dance — " improper." 
You wax enthusiastic, you argue, laugh, and give your- 
self out, you fling yourself heart and soul into the con- 
versation, you give expression to your real feelings, you 
play when you are at the card-table, chat while you chat, 
eat while you eat — " improper ! improper ! improper ! " 
Stendhal, one of the cleverest and profoundest minds of 
the age, hit off the " improper " excellently well when 
he said that such-and-such a British peer did not dare to 
cross his legs when he sat alone before his own hearth 
for fear of being improper. An English gentlewoman. 

?.{ Tbt Fsn cf Nndngen 

ste axe af rbr nine ^ bBntt" — that /nost straitest 
«:= :r ?T:rrirT.r3 The vniuc Icare their whole &inily 
11 sarrs .: iiu sli nTn"T did jLOTthing "improper** — 
ICE T 7UC1 1:1* orucf's 9VX aei^fht in her bedroom, and 
nssx Ti:c ^^ - iii.nri.ner.'^ twt sbc would look on herself 
!» iiisz .: Siif£ rscr. i cz a iisit 5-cnn a man of her acquaint- 
LJCt ^ zz/i iTzrss^z r:oa. Thanks to propriety, 
l.:co:c u-i !:3 :*>.ib:ra=3 wiH be found petrified some 


[zJL zhiz tbere arc asses here in France 

• • 

::! ir nzpDct tbe soUcmn tomfbolerj that the 
£ krsc ::r iTvrc.g ihemsckes with that admir- 
z.rjs ia£:l:-'pcsi<ss;:c which tou know!* added Blondet. 
is CDJux^ tD make anj man shudder if he has 
:be EntL-sh at hc^ae, and recollects the charm- 
:-*:, crar:r-;:s Frc:i>ci sxrjicrs. Sir Walter Scott was 
ifr^z ro pa:-: wc^ricn as ihcr arc for fear of being 
*' larcc^cT " ; mi 1: the dose of his life repented of 
the crcabcc of tbc rrca: character of Effic in The Heart 

* Do T-ou wisi not to be " improper ** in England ? ' 
askoi BixSoc, lidicssin^ Finot. 

* Well r • 

^Go to the Tuiicries and look at a figure there, 
somethiDg like a nrcman carred in marble (^^ Themis- 
tocles** the stattianr calls it), tnr to walk like the 
Commandant*s statue, and tou will never be ^' improper.** 
It was through strict obscn-ance of the great law of the 
Improper that Godefroid*s happiness became complete. 
Here is the stonr : — 

^ Beaudenord had a tiger, not a ^' groom,** as they 
write that know nothing of society. The tiger, a 
diminutive Irish page, called Paddy, Toby, Joby (which 
TOU please), was three feet in height by twenty inches 
m breadth, a weasel-faced infant, with nerves of steel 
tempered in fire-water, and agile as a squirrel. He 
drove a landau with a skill neTcr yet at fiiult in Liondon 

The Firm of Nucingcn 169 

or Paris, He had a lizard's eve, as sharp as my own, 
and he could mount a horse hke the elder Franconi. 
With the rosy cheeks and yellow hair of one of Rubens's 
Madonnas, he was double-fiiced as a prince, and as 
knowing as an old attorney ; in short, at the age of ten 
he was nothing more nor less than a blossom of depravity, 
gambling and swearing, partial to jam and punch, pert 
zs z feuilUtony impudent and light-fingered as any Paris 
street-arab. He had been a source of honour and profit 
to a well-known English lord, for whom he had already 
won seven hundred thousand francs on the racecourse. 
The aforesaid nobleman set no small store on Tobv. 
His tiger was a curiosity, the very smallest tiger in 
town. Perched aloft on the back of a thoroughbred, 
Joby looked like a hawk. Yet — the great man dis- 
missed him. Not for greediness, not for dishonesty, 
nor murder, nor for criminal conversation, nor for bad 
manners, nor rudeness to my lady, nor for cutting 
holes in my lady's own woman s pockets, nor because he 
had been '^ got at " by some of his master's rivals on the 
turf, nor for playing games of a Sunday, nor for bad 
behaviour of any sort or description. Toby might have 
done all these things, he might even have spoken to 
milord before milord spoke to him, and his noble master 
might, perhaps, have pardoned that breach of the law 
domestic. Milord would have put up with a good deal 
from Toby ; he was very fond of him. Toby could 
drive a tandem dog-cart, riding on the wheeler, postillion 
fashion ; his legs did not reach the shafts, he looked in 
fieict very much like one of the cherub heads circling 
about the Eternal Father in old Italian pictures. But 
an English journalist wrote a delicious description of the 
little angel, in the course of which he said that Paddy 
was quite too pretty for a tiger; in fact, he offered to bet 
that Paddy was a tame tigress. The description, on 
the heads of it, was calculated to poison minds and end 
in something *^ improper." And the superlative of 


•,'ic U}\ind the infant weeping over a pot of jan 

A^ ^reaJv lost the guineas with which milon 

tis misfortune). Godefroid took possession o 

.. ^lii ^^ it fell out that on his return among us h< 

.^^-w ?acic with him the sweetest thing in tigers fron 

^ j-jc. He was known by his tiger — as Couture i 

^«.: >v his waistcoats — and found no difficulty ii 

_ 'j: the fraternity of the club yclept to-day th 

.*^t.!KMit. He had renounced the diplomatic career 

>. ..«>cc .iccordingly to alarm the susceptibilities of th 

...>. ous ; and as he had no very dangerous amount c 

,*-.?vc, he was well looked upon everywhere. 

NNiic of us would feel mortified if we saw onl 

.:j; faces wherever we went; we enjoy the sou 

w.v**iUons of envy. Godefroid did not like to be dis 
<«>». Kvery one has his taste. Now for the solic 
, ^..vil aspects of life ! 

'/>c distinguishing feature of his chambers, where 

'•«•« .icked my lips over breakfast more than once, wa 

>(crious dressing-closet, nicely decorated, and con] 

appointed, with a grate in it and a bath-tub. 1 

upon a narrow staircase, the folding doors wer 

the locks well oiled, the hinges discreet, th 

I 3f frosted glass, the curtain impervious t 

II 1^ th^ hpHrnnm ixras. a« it miahf tn hav 

The Firm of Nucingen 171 

draughts from door or window, the carpet had been made 
soft for bare feet hastily put to the floor in a sudden panic 
of alarm — which stamps him as your thoroughbred dandy 
that knows life ; for here, in a few moments, he may show 
himself either a noodle or a master in those little details 
in which a man's character is revealed. The Marquise 
previously quoted — no, it was the Marquise de Roche- 
fide — came out of that dressing-closet in a furious rage, 
and never went back again. She discovered nothing 
" improper " in it. Godefroid used to keep a little cup- 
board full of ' 

* Waistcoats ? ' suggested Finot. 

* Come, now, just like you, great Turcaret that you 
arc. (I shall never form that fellow.) Why, no. Full 
of cakes, and fruit, and dainty little flasks of Malaga and 
Lunel ; an en cas de nuit in Louis Quatorze's style ; 
anything that can tickle the delicate and well-bred appe- 
tite of sixteen quarterings. A knowing old man-servant, 
very strong in matters veterinary, waited on the horses 
and groomed Godefroid. He had been with the late 
M. de Beaudenord, Godefroid^s father, and bore Gode- 
froid an inveterate aflPection, a kind of heart complaint 
which has almost disappeared among domestic servants 
since savings banks were established. 

*A11 material wellbeing is based upon arithmetic. 
You, to whom Paris is known down to its very excres- 
cences, will see that Beaudenord must have required about 
seventeen thousand livres per annum ; for he paid some 
seventeen francs of taxes and spent a thousand crowns 
on his own whims. Well, dear boys, when Godefroid 
came of age, the Marquis d'Aiglemont submitted to him 
such an account of his trust as none of us would be likely 
to give a nephew; Godefroid's name was inscribed as 
the owner of eighteen thousand livres of rentes^ a rem- 
nant of his father's wealth spared by the harrow of the 
great reduction under the Republic and the hailstorms 
of Imperial arrears. D'Aiglemont, that upright guardian. 

172 The Firm of Nudngen 

also put his ward in poi scn ion of tome thirty thousand 
francs of savings invested with the firm of Nucingen ; 
saying with all the charm of a grand seigneur and the 
indulgence of a soldier of the Empire, that he had con- 
trived to put it aside for his ward's young man's follies. 
^ If you will take my advice, Godcfroid," added he, 
*^ instead of squandering the money like a fool, as so 
many young men do, let it go in follies that will be 
useful to you afterwards. Take an attache's post at 
Turin, and then go to Naples, and from Naples to 
London, and you will be amused and learn something 
for your money. Afterwards, if you think of a career, 
the time and the money will not have been thrown 
away." The late lamented d'Aiglemont had more sense 
than people credited him with, which is more than can 
be said of some of us.' 

^ A young fellow that starts with an assured income 
of eighteen thousand livres at one-and-twenty is lost,' 
said Couture.' 

* Unless he is miserly, or very much above the ordinary 
level,' added Blondet. 

*Well, Godefroid sojourned in the four capitals of 
Italy,' continued Bixiou. *He lived in England and 
Germany, he spent some little time at St. Petersburg, 
he ran over Holland ; but he parted company with the 
aforesaid thirty thousand francs by living as if he had 
thirty thousand a year. Everywhere he found the same 
supreme de volatile^ the same aspics, and French wines ; 
he heard French spoken wherever he went — in short, he 
never got away from Paris. He ought, of course, to 
have tried to deprave his disposition, to fence himself in 
triple brass, to get rid of his illusions, to learn to hear 
anything said without a blush, and to master the 
inmost secrets of the Powers. — Pooh ! with a good deal 
of trouble he equipped himself with four languages — 
that is to say, he laid in a stock of four words for one 
idea. Then he came back, and certain tedious dowagers. 

The Firm of Nucingen 173 

styled ** conquests" abroad, were left disconsolate. 
Godefroid came back, shy, scarcely formed, a good 
fellow with a confiding disposition, incapable of saying 
ill of any one who honoured him with an admittance to 
his house, too staunch to be a diplomatist, altogether 
he was what we call a thoroughly good fellow.' 

^ To cut it short, a brat with eighteen thousand livres 
per annum to drop over the first investment that turns 
up,' said Couture. 

^ That confounded Couture has such a habit of antici- 
pating dividends, that he is anticipating the end of my 
tale. Where was I ? Oh ! Beaudenord came back. 
When he took up his abode on the Quai Malaquais, it 
came to pass that a thousand francs over and above his 
needs was altogether insufEcient to keep up his share of 
a box at the Italiens and the Opera properly. When he 
lost twenty-five or thirty louis at play at one swoop, 
naturally he paid ; when he won, he spent the money ; 
so should we if we were fools enough to be drawn into 
a bet. Beaudenord, feeling pinched with his eighteen 
thousand francs, saw the necessity of creating what we 
to-day call a balance in hand. It was a great notion of 
his ^^not to get too deep." He took counsel of his 
sometime guardian. *^ The funds are now at par, my 
dear boy," quoth d' Aidemont ; ^^ sell out. I have sold 
out mine and my wifes. Nucingen has all my capital, 
and is giving me six per cent. ; do likewise, you will 
have one per cent, the more upon your capital, and with 
that you will be quite comfortable." 

^ In three days' time our Godefroid was comfortable. 
His increase of income exactly supplied his superfluities ; 
his material happiness was complete. 

^Suppose that it were possible to read the minds of all 
the young men in Paris at one glance (as, it appears, will 
be done at the Day of Judgment with all the millions 
upon millions that have grovelled in all spheres, and 
worn all uniforms or the uniform of nature), and to ask 

Tie Fam of Nucingcn 

xsmaicK IX Bz-and-twcnty is or is not 
UT n "TIC Tiilimr^ar items — to wit, to own a saddle- 
it-rn: a:ti l t.bu-r, :r i ab, with a fresh, rosy-feced 
" .'.rip aiT' ^TWTT ar 2»i£:rcr than your fist, and to 
nr-t or u:::nrir,iT.;nJg nrc«aeham for twelve francs an 
.' -jri.r^ r; ;:^nar ejepcrlr arrared, agreeably to the 
i:»^ rr^- -^uisirt t iss,z\ cjodns, at eight o'clock, noon, 
;.ui- 2 ;:i:>c£. :t rzu L r j s i :i xc^ and in the evening ; to be 
vrL'l 's^^'-'Si a r-=-r ezihasFT, and to cull the short- 
: -Ti r;wr> n" »jser£ci&l, cosmopolitan friendships; 
• Tt: n.i: ir^uxtfrrxTLT staaaac, to carry your head, 
.'ii- r.*:,. uM ^nir ssstf weil ; to inhalnt a charming 
: •:- rr.:'^-v.■l arrsr ms ru-ttera of the rooms just de- 
^-- *t:-« ;ir Tttr ^us. ,V;r;arxa:g ; ro be able to ask a party 
.' '-TTv^s *: ;2::t* a: rxis -Virfcr*- de Cawcale without a 
--• ' >i>» •• ?T>ii:"acinr wr rt T:*ur trtciscrs' pocket ; never 
•. ?t: ni. r, i:r :r ltt nriccii project by the words, 
' *. n. -re n^nru*' * *" ij:\z zjssHt^ ro be able to renew at 
nvj<;:-: :iu r»:r.t -.Tsrrrss thai aiosn the ears of three 
:>.v.>,:^r.n'i»is ;*:i: rn; i.r.sir of toit hat? 

• "!"; -iiicr .nru:"^ nrr nriiaarr roung man (and we 
;u:'<'*-;^ :ni : a*^ ii,-c .TTCizarr mcn^ would reply that 
:rti hii-^nin?*^ a- . , rial it is like the Madeleine 
v -.'Ku- :r«t ;&':u- . rr.£.: i s;£=i sibk lore and be loved, or 
i,v-: «• :Kx : -m:*T«. ,v m jm-cc without loving, or love 
u *'*,T!^ rui-x-HSv N rw w hapodncss as a mental con- 

" 1 r uM^a*' : >i r, i.'Tsr G^aerroic dc Beaudenord had 
<': wx :r rr^ * a-ois iixraL circies which it pleased him 
:r rrr?', a^c« ii» wxt alout in them, and felt 
r. Tustt':: «cut irr.vt rfccst ,^7^ be saw the necessity of 
& sunsiuu-^j^c^c ^riarrjtfe of baring a great lady to 
C'ib;.'^*:* c*i. iraceac c^f cbewinc the stems of roses 
Scuifrfc: w ixTOCBce apdccc of ^Ime. Prcvost, after 
the manrxer <v rke ciIjow roungsters that chirp and 
CkUc ia ^»c khSbses of the Opera, like chickens in 
4 CMfk. Iq skorx, be resolved to centre his ideas, his 

The Firm of Nucingen 175 

sentiments, his affections upon a woman, one woman ? — 
La Phamme ! Ah ! • . . 

^ At first he conceived the preposterous notion of an 
unhappy passion, and gyrated for a while about his fair 
cousin, Mme. d'Aiglemont, not perceiving that she had 
already danced the waltz in Faust with a diplomatist. 
The year '25 went by, spent in tentatives, in futile 
flirtations, and an unsuccessful quest. The loving object 
of which he was in search did not appear. Passion is 
extremely rare ; and in our time as many barriers have 
been raised against passion in social life as barricades in 
the streets. In truth, my brothers, the " improper " is 
gaining upon us, I tell you ! 

* As we may incur reproach for following on the heels 
of portrait painters, auctioneers, and fashionable dress- 
makers, I will not inflict any description upon you of her 
in whom Godefroid recognised the female of his species. 
Age, nineteen; height, four feet eleven inches; fair 
hair, eyebrows idemj blue eyes, forehead neither high nor 
low, curved nose, little mouth, short turned-up chin, 
oval face ; distinguishing signs — none. Such was the 
description on the passport of the beloved object. You 
will not ask more than the police, or their worships the 
mayors, of all the towns and communes of France, the 
gendarmes and the rest of the powers that be ? In 
other respects — I give you mv word for it — she was a 
rough sketch of a Venus dei Medici. 

* The first time that Godefroid went to one of the 
balls for which Mme. de Nucingen enjoyed a certain 
not undeserved reputation, he caught a glimpse of his 
future lady-love in a quadrille, and was set marvelling by 
that heignt of four feet eleven inches. The &ir hair 
rippled in a shower of curls about the little girlish head, 
she looked as fresh as a naiad peeping out through the 
crjrstal pane of her stream to take a look at the spring 
flowers. (This is quite in the modern style, strings of 
phrases as endless as the macaroni on the table a while 

176 The Firai of Nodi^eii 

ago.) On dm ^ejrchrows uim" (no aSmcc to the 
p tr fect of police) Pamj, tkat writer of light and playful 
verse, would have hung hatf^a-doscn cxNiplets, comparing 
them Terjr agreeaUj to Cupid^s bow, at the same time 
bidding us obterre that the dart was beneath ; the said 
dart, however, was neither Tcry potent nor very pene- 
trating, for as jct it was cootroUed bjr the namby-pamby 
swee tn e s s of a MUe. de la Vallicre as depicted on fire- 
screens, at the moment when she solemnises her betrothal 
in the sight of heaven, any solenmisadon before the 
registrar being quite out of the question. 

' You know the e£fect of fiur hair and blue eyes in 
the soft, voluptuous decorous dance ? Such a girl does 
not knock audaciously at your heart, like the dark-haired 
damsels that seem to say after the fiishion of Spanish 
beggarSy ^Your money or your life; give me five 
francs or take my contempt ! ** These insolent and 
somewhat dangerous beauties may find favour in the 
sight of many men, but to my thinking the blonde that 
has the good fortune to look extremely tender and yield- 
ing, while forgoing none of her rights to scold, to tease, 
to use unmeasured language, to be jealous without 
grounds, to do anything, in short, that makes woman 
adorable, — the fiur-haired girl, I say, will always be more 
sure to marry than the ardent brunette. Firewood is 
dear, you see. 

^Isaure, white as an Alsacienne (she first saw the 
light at Strasbourg, and spoke German with a slight and 
very agreeable French accent), danced to admiration. 
Her feet, omitted on the passport, though they really 
might have found a place there under the heading Dis- 
tinguishing Signs, were remarkable for their small size, 
and for that particular something which old>&shioned 
dancing masters used to call flic-flac^ a something that 
put you in mind of MUe. Mars's agreeable delivery, 
for all the Muses are sisters, and dancer and poet 
alike have their feet upon the earth. Isaure's feet spoke 

The Firm of Nucingen 177 

lightly and swiftly with a clearness and precision which 
augured well for the things of the heart. ^^Elle a du 
flic-flac^^ was old Marcel's highest word of praise, and 
old Marcel was the dancing master that deserved the 
epithet of " the Great.'* People used to say " the Great 
Marcel,** as they said "Frederick the Great," and in 
Frederick's time. 

^ Did Marcel compose any ballets ? ' inquired Finot. 

* Yes, something in the style of Les ^atre J^lements 
and V Europe galanU^ 

* What times they were, when great nobles dressed 
the dancers ! ' said Finot. 

^ Improper ! ' said Bixiou. ^ Isaure did not raise her- 
self on the tips of her toes, she stayed on the ground, she 
swayed in the dance without jerks, and neither more nor 
less voluptuously than a young lady ought to do. There 
was a profound philosophy in Marcel's remark that every 
age and condition had its dance ; a married woman 
should not dance like a young girl, nor a little jacka- 
napes like a capitalist, nor a soldier like a page ; he even 
went so far as to say that the in&ntry ought not to 
dance like the cavalry, and from this point he proceeded 
to classify the world at large. All these fine distinctions 
seem very far away.' 

* Ah ! said Blondet, * you have set your finger on a 
great calamity. If Marcel had been properly understood, 
there would have been no French Revolution.' 

* It had been Godefroid's privilege to run over Europe,' 
resumed Bixiou, ^ nor had he neglected his opportunities 
of making a thorough comparative study of European 
dancing. Perhaps but for profound diligence in the 
pursuit of what is usually held to be useless knowledge, 
he would never have fallen in love with this young lady ; 
as it was, out of the three hundred guests that crowded 
the handsome rooms in the Rue Saint-Lazare, he alone 
comprehended the unpublished romance revealed by a 
garrulous quadrille. People certainly noticed Isaure 


178 The Firm of Nucingen 

d*Aldrigger's dancing ; but in this present century the 
cry is, ^^ Skim lightly over the surface, do not lean your 
weight on it**; so one said (he was a notary^ clerk). 
^ There is a girl that dances uncommonly well ; another 
(a lady in a turban), ^^ There is a young lady that dances 
enchanting] V ; " and a third (a woman of thirty), ^Tbat 
little thing is not dancing badly/' — But to return to the 
great Marcel, let us parody his best known saying with, 
" How much there is in an avanUdeux,^* ' 

^ And let us get on a little faster,' said Blondet ; ^you 
are maundering/ 

^ Isaure,' continued Bixiou, looking askance at Blondet, 
^ wore a simple white crepe dress with green ribbons $ 
she had a camellia in her hair, a camellia at her waist^ 
another camellia at her skirt-hem, and a camellia—' 

* Come, now ! here come Sancho's three hundred goats.' 
' Therein lies all literature, dear boy. Clarissa is a 

masterpiece, there are fourteen volumes of her, and the 
most wooden-headed playwright would give you the 
whole of Clarissa in a single act. So long as I amuse 
you, what have you to complain of? That costume 
was positively lovely. Don't you like camellias ? 
Would you rather have dahlias? No? Very good, 
chestnuts then, here 's for you.' (And probably Bixiou 
flung a chestnut across the table, for we heard something 
drop on a plate.) 

^ I was wrong, I acknowledge it. Go on,' said Blondet. 

* I resume. " Pretty enough to marry, isn't she ? ** 
said Rastignac, coming up to Godefroid de Beaudenord, 
and indicating the little one with the spotless white 
camellias, every petal intact. 

'Rastignac bein^ an intimate friend, Godefroid answered 
in a low voice, ^' Well, so I was thinking. I was saying to 
myself that instead of enjoying my happiness with fear and 
trembling at every moment ; instead of taking a world 
of trouble to whisper a word in an inattentive ear, of 
looking over the house at the Italiens to see if some one 

The Firm of Nucingcn 179 

wears a red flower or a white in her hair, or watching 
along the Corso for a gloved hand on a carriage door, as 
we used to do at Milan ; instead of snatching a mouthful 
of baba like a lackey finishing off a bottle behind a door, 
or wearing out one's wits with giving and receiving 
letters like a postman — letters that consist not of a mere 
couple of tender lines, but expand to five folio volumes 
to-day and contract to a couple of sheets to-morrow (a 
tiresome practice) ; instead of dragging along over the 
ruts and dodging behind hedges — it would be better to 
give way to the adorable passion that Jean-Jacques 
Kousseau envied, to fall frankly in love with a girl like 
Isaure, with a view to making her my wife, if upon 
exchange of sentiments our hearts respond to each other ; 
to be Werthef , in short, with a happy ending." 

' *^ Which is a common weakness," returned Rastignac 
without laughing. ^^ Possibly in your place I might 
plunge into the unspeakable delights of that ascetic 
course ; it possesses the merits of novelty and originality, 
and it is not very expensive. Your Monna Lisa is 
sweet, but inane as music for the ballet-; I give you 

* Rastignac made this last remark in a way which set 
Beaudenord thinking that his friend had his own motives 
for disenchanting him ; Beaudenord had not been a dip- 
lomatist for nothing ; he fancied that Rastignac wanted 
to cut him out. If a man mistakes his vocation, the 
false start none the less influences him for the rest of 
his life. Godefroid was so evidently smitten with Mile. 
Isaure d'Aldrigger, that Rastignac went off to a tall girl 
chatting in the card-room. — " Malvina," he said, lower- 
ing his voice, "your sister has just netted a fish worth 
eighteen thousand francs a year. He has a name, a 
manner, and a certain position in the world ; keep an 
eye upon them ; be careful to gain Isaure's confidence ; 
and if they philander, do not let her send a word to him 
unless you have seen it first " 

i8o The Firm of Nucingeti 

^Towards two o'clock in the morning, Itaure was 
standing beside a diminutive Shepherdess of the Alps^ 
a little woman of forty, coauettish as a Zerlina. A 
footman announced that ^* Mme. la Baronne's carriage 
stops the way/' and Godefroid forthwith saw his beauti- 
ful maiden out of a German sone draw her fantastical 
mother into the cloakroom, whither Malvina followed 
them ; and (boy that he was) he must needs go to 
discover into what pot of preserves the infunt Jo^ had 
fallen, and had the pleasure of watching Isaure and 
Malvina coaxing that sparkling person, their mamma, 
into her pelisse, with all the little tender precautions 
required for a night journey in Paris. Of course, the 
girls on their side watched Beaudenord out of the comers 
of their eyes, as well-taught kittens watch a mouse, 
without seeming to see it at alL With a certain satisfiic- 
tion Beaudenord noted the bearing, manner, and appear- 
ance, of the tall well-gloved Alsacien servant in livery 
who brought three pairs of fur-lined overshoes for his 

^ Never were two sisters more unlike than Isaure and 
Malvina. Malvina the elder was tall and dark-haired, 
Isaure was short and fair, and her features were finely and 
delicately cut, while her sister's were vigorous and strik- 
ing. Isaure was one of those women who reign like 
queens through their weakness, such a woman as a 
schoolboy would feel it incumbent upon him to protect ; 
Malvina was the Andalouse of Musset's poem. As the 
sisters stood together, Isaure looked like a miniature 
beside a portrait in oils. 

^ '^ She is rich ! " exclaimed Godefroid, going back to 
Rastignac in the ballroom. 

* "Who ? " 
*"That young lady." 

* ** Oh, Isaure d'Aldrigger ? Why, yes. The mother 
is a widow ; Nucingen was once a clerk in her hus- 
band's bank at Strasbourg. Do you want to see them 

The Firm of Nucingen i8i 

again ? Just turn off a compliment for Mme. de 
Restaud ; she is giving a ball the day after to-morrow ; 
the Baroness d'Aldrigger and her two daughters will be 
there. You will have an invitation." 

^ For three days Godefroid beheld Isaure in the camera 
obscura of his brain — his Isaure with her white camellias 
and the little ways she had with her head — saw her as 
you still see the bright thing on which you have been 
gazing after your eyes are shut, a picture grown some- 
what smaller ; a radiant, brightly-coloured vision flashing 
out of a vortex of darkness.' 

* Bixiou, you are dropping into phenomena, block us 
out our pictures,' put in Couture. 

* Here you are, gentlemen ! Here is the picture you 
ordered ! (from the tones of Bixiou's voice, he evidently 
was posing as a waiter.) ^ Finot ! attention, one has to 
pull at your mouth as a jarvie pulls at his jade. In 
Madame Theodora Marguerite Wilhelmine Adolphus 
(of the firm of Adolphus and Company, Mannheim), 
relict of the late Baron d'Aldrigger, you might expect 
to find a stout, comfortable German, compact and 
prudent, with a &ir complexion mellowed to the tint of 
the foam on a pot of beer; and as to virtues, rich 
in all the patriarchal good qualities that Germany 
possesses — in romances, that is to say. Well there 
was not a grey hair in the frisky ringlets that she wore 
on cither side of her face ; she was still as fresh and as 
bris;htly. coloured on the cheek-bone as a Nuremberg 
doll; her eyes were lively and bright ; a closely-fitting, 
pointed bodice set ofi^ the slenderness of her waist. Her 
brow and temples wefe furrowed by a few involuntary 
wrinkles which, like Ninon, she would fain have 
banished from her head to her heel, but they persisted 
in tracing their zigzags in the more conspicuous place. 
The outlines of the nose had somewhat fallen away, 
and the tip had reddened, and this was the more awk- 
ward because it matched the colour on the cheek-bones. 

1 82 The Firm of Nucingcn 

^ An only daughter and an heiress, spoilt hj her father 
and mother, spoilt by her husband and the city of 
Strasbourg, spoilt still by two daughters who worshipped 
their mother, the Baroness d'Aldngger indulged a taste 
tor rose colour, short petticoats, and a knot of ribbon at 
the point of the dghtly-fitting corselet bodice. Any 
Parisian meeting the Baroness on the boulevard would 
Mutle and condemn her outright ; he does not admit any 
pica vif extenuating circumstances, like a modern jury 
viii 4 case of tracricide. A scoffer is always superficial, 
4iid iit cvnaet^uience cruel ; the rascal never thinks of 
chrowin^ the proper share of ridicule on society that 
ttknitt th< indsTidioi what he is ; for Nature only makes 
^ull animals of us, we owe the fool to artificial conditions.' 

* The thine that I admire about Biziou is his com- 
pleteness,' said Blondet ; ^whenever he is not gibing at 
others, he is laughing at himself.' 

^ I will be even with you for that, Blondet,' returned 
Bixiou in a significant tone. ^If the little Baroness 
was giddy, careless, selfish, and incapable in practical 
matters, she was not accountable for her sins; the 
responsibility is divided between the firm of Adolphus 
and Company of Mannheim and Baron d'Aldrigger with 
his blind love for his wife. The Baroness was as gentle 
as a lamb ; she had a soft heart that was very readily 
moved ; unluckily, the emotion never lasted long, but it 
was all the more frequently renewed. 

* When the Baron died, for instance, the Shepherdess 
all but followed him to the tomb, so violent and sincere 
was her grief, but — ^next morning there were green peas 
at lunch, she was fond of green peas, the delicious green 
peas calmed the crisis. Her daughters and her servants 
loved her so blindly that the whole household rejoiced 
over a circumstance that enabled them to hide the 
dolorous spectacle of the funeral from the sorrowing 
Baroness. Isaure and Malvina would not allow their 
idolised mother to see their tears. 


The Firm of Nucingen 183 

* While the Requiem was chanted, they diverted her 
thoughts to the choice of mourning dresses. While the 
coiEn was placed in the huge, black and white, wax- 
besprinkled catafalque that does duty for some three thou- 
sand dead in the course of its career — so I was informed 
by a philosophically-minded mute whom I once con- 
sulted on the point over a couple of glasses of petit blanc 
— while an indifferent choir was bawling the Dies ira^ 
and a no less indifferent priest mumbling the office for 
the dead, do you know what the friends of the departed 
were saying as, all dressed in black from head to foot, 
they sat or stood in the church ? (Here is the picture 
you ordered.) Stay, do you see them ? 

*"How much do you suppose old d'Aldrigger will 
leave ? '* Desroches asked of Taillefcr. — You remember 
Taillefer that gave us the finest orgie ever known not 
long before he died ? * 

* jBut was Desroches an attorney in those days ? ' 

^ He was in treaty for a practice in 1822,' said Couture. 
* It was a bold thing to do, for he was the son of a poor 
clerk who never made more than eighteen hundred 
francs a year, and his mother sold stamped paper. But 
he worked very hard from 1818 to 1822. He was 
Derville's fourth clerk when he came; and in 18 19 he 
was second ! ' 

* Desroches ? ' 

* Yes. Desroches, like the rest of us, once grovelled 
in the poverty of Job. He grew so tired of wearing coats 
too tight and sleeves too short for him, that he swallowed 
down the law in desperation and had just bought a bare 
licence. He was a licensed attorney, without a penny, 
or a client, or any friends beyond our set \ and he was 
bound to pay interest on the purchase-money and the 
cautionary deposit besides.' 

^ He used to make me feel as if I had met a tiger 
escaped from the Jardin des Plantes,' said Couture. 
^ He was lean and red-haired, his eyes were the colour of 

184 The Firm of Nucingen 

S(uiiibh snuiF, and his complcxioa was harsh. He looked 
cold and phlegmatic He was hard upon the widow, 
pitiless to the orphan, and a terror to his clerks ; they 
were not allowed to waste a minute. Learned, crafty, 
double-faced, honey-tongued, nerer flying into a passion, 
mncorous in his judicial way.' 

^ But there is eoodncss in him,' cried Finot ; ^ he is 
devoted to his fhends. The first thing he did was to 
take Godeschal, Mariette's brother, as his head-clerk.' 

^ At Paris,' said Blondet, ^ there are attorneys of two 
shades. There is the honest man attorney ; he abides 
within the province of the law, pushes on his cases, 
neglects no one, never runs after business, gives his 
cUciitH his honest opinion, and makes them compromise 
vNi vJoubtiiil points— he is a Denrille, in short. Then 
thcfi} is the starveling attorney, to whom anything 
Mc^uiN ^^x>d provided that he is sure of expenses | he wiU 
>«;(» ti\^t iiK^uncaios fighting, for he sells than, but planets ; 
)w will work to make the worse appear the better 
vt^UM?^ iiivi tttkc ^vantage of a technical error to win the 
uay t04 4 ly^uc^ If one of these feOows tries one of 
M^iiiv vJ^iutS cricks QODce too ofisen^ the guild forces 
hiiH ti^ $ell ktt coQnccfMm. Desroches^ our ftiend 
LH:^roches, understood the fuU resources of a trade 
carried on in a beggarly way enoa^ by poor devils ; he 
would buy up causes of men who fcuxi to lose the day ; 
he plunged into chicanery with a fixci determinarion to 
make money by it. He was right; he Jid his business 
very honestly. He found influence among men in 
public life by getting them out of awkward com[dica- 
tions ; there was our dear des Lupeaulx, for instance, 
whose position was so deeply compromised. And Des- 
rochcs stood in need of influence ; for when he b^an, he 
was anything but well looked on at the court, and he 
who took so much trouble to rectify the errors of his 
clients was often in trouble himself. See now, Bixiou, 
to go back to the subject — How came Desroches to be 
in the church ? ' 

The Firm of Nucingen 185 

' "D'Aldriggcr is leaving seven or eight hundred thou- 
sand francs,'' Taillefer answered, addressing Desroches. 

^ ^* Oh, pooh, there is only one man who knows how 
much they are worth," put in Werbrust, a friend of the 

* « Who ? " 

^ *^ That fat rogue Nucingen ; he will go as far as 
the cemetery ; d'Aldrigger was his master once, and out 
of gratitude he put the old man's capital into his busi- 

*"Thc widow will soon feel a great difference." 

***What do you mean ? " 

*"Wcll, d'Aldrigger was so fond of his wife. Now, 
don't laugh, people are looking at us." 

* ** Look, here comes du TiTlet j he is very late. The 
epistle is just beginning." 

* " He will marry the eldest girl in all probability." 
*** Is it possible ? " asked Desroches j " why, he is tied 
more than ever to Mme. Roguin." 

*** Tied — he ? — You do not know him." 

* ** Do you know how Nucingen and du Tillet stand ? " 
asked Desroches. 

*"Like this," said Taillefer; "Nucingen is just the 
man to swallow down his old master's capital, and then 
to disgorge it.'' 

* " Ugh ! ugh ! " coughed Werbrust, " these churches 
are confoundedly damp ; ugh ! ugh ! What do you 
mean by * disgorge it ' ? " 

* " Well, Nucingen knows that du Tillet has a lot of 
money ; he wants to marry him to Malvina ; but du 
Tillet is shy of Nucingen. To a looker-on, the game 
is good fun. 

* " What ! " exclaimed Werbrust, " is she old enough 
to marry ? How quickly we grow old ! " 

*" Malvina d'Aldrigger is quite twenty years old, my 
dear fellow. Old d'Aldrigger was married in 1800. 
He gave some rather fine entertainments in Strasbourg 
at the time of his wedding, and afterwards when 

ii6 The Finn of Nodngen 

Thst was in 1801 at the peace of 
.Vaicas^ and here are we in the year 1823, Daddy 
W$r:«rusc ' Li those dars ererything was Ossianised ; he 
cauoi ins ia.u^cer Malrina. Six years afterwards there 
ws» A rxfc ^r chivolnr, Vmrtamt pnar la Syne — a pack of 
^<«»s&>e — xnc Ik chri^ened his second daughter Isaure. 
Siic s sorencsesi. So there are two daughters to marry." 

^*^T^ vcmics will noc have a penny left in ten 
v^ars^ rnxe^*^ sata Wcrbmst, speaking to Desroches in a 
cco'tv:«icaI race. 

* ^'^ T^«« is <r Aluirigger's man-servant, the old fellow 
bcLcw-JL^ xwxj Mt the bock of the church ; he has been 
suice the two young ladies were children, 
i3LbiLe of anything to keep enough together 
ibr ^i gga ^? live asco^* said Taillefer. 

^ J\f< ir« * ^orom the minor canons.) Dies ilia ! 

'^^ -^ GoixLiay, Wertnst" (from Tailkfcr), « the Dies 
^M ruts OK too much in miod of my poor boy." 

^«*^ I s2llI jo too ; it is too damp m here," said Wer- 

^^A tew haltpeace, kind gentlemen!** (from the 

beai:j:ars at the dccr.^ 

^ ^^ For the e xp en s e s of the church ! ** (frbm the beadle, 
with a rattlini: clatter of the money-box.) 

* .fart ^thxn the choristers.) 

*** UTiat dhl he die of? '' (from a friend.) 
***He bccAe a blood-vessel in the hed" (from an 
inqumtive wag). 

^** Who is dead ? ** (from a passer-by.) 

* ** The President de Montesquieu ! ** (from a relative.) 

* The sacristan to the poor, " Get away, all of you ; the 
monev foe you has been given to us ; don't ask for any 


^Done to the life!' cried Couture. And indeed it 
seemed to us that we heard all that went on in the 

The Firm of Nucingen 187 

church. ' Bixiou imitated everything, even the shuffling 
sound of the feet of the men that carried the coffin over 
the stone floor. 

^ There are poets and romancers and writers that say 
many fine things about Parisian manners/ continued 
Bixiou, 'but that is what really happens at a funeral. 
Ninety-nine out of a hundred that come to pay their^ 
respects to some poor devil departed, get together and 
talk business or pleasure in the middle of the church. 
To see some poor little touch of real sorrow, you need 
an impossible combination of circumstances. And, after 
all, is there such a thing as grief without a thought of 
self in it?* 

- * Ugh ! * said Blondet. * Nothing is less respected than 
death ; is it that there is nothing less respectable ? ' 

* It is so common ! ' resumed Bixiou. * When the 
service was over, Nucingen and du Tillet went to the 
graveside. The old man-servant walked ; Nucingen 
and du Tillet were put at the head of the procession of 
mourning coaches. — '* Goot, mcin goot friend," said 
Nucingen as they turned into the boulevard. *' It ees a 
goot time to marry Malfina ; you vill be der brodector off 
dat boor family vat ees in tears ; you vill haf ein family, a 
home off your own ; you vill haf a house ready vur- 
nished, und Malfina is truly ein dreashure." 

* I seem to hear that old Robert Macaire of a Nucin- 
gen himself,' said Finot. 

* " A charming girl," said Ferdinand du Tillet in a 
cool, unenthusiastic tone,' Bixiou continued. 

* Just du Tillet himself summed up in a word ! ' cried 

*" Those that do not know her may think her plain," 
pursued du Tillet, " but she has character, I admit." 

* " Und ein herz, dot is the pest of die pizness, mein 
dear poy ; she vould make you an indelligent und defoted 
vife. In our beastly pizness, nopody cares to know who 
life or dies ; it is a crate plessing gif a mann kann put 

cff T^ Firm of Nadngeii 

M as vest's harv, Mcin Telvine prought mc 
* ailioB. s im know, but I should gladly gif 

SO pig a Mf. 

""^ I lu ICC caov ji c ukI t ; boot she haf somdings.** 
^ ^ Ys^ file xm a anodbcr wkh a great liking for rose- 
cjiinuv** sBi£ XII Ti'Iec ; vni with that epigram he cut 

' .\;tcr liimer tie Sanaa ie Nndngen informed Wil- 
lexmne .^zumous rftar she had barely four hundred 
tauusanu t m i cs iexm op i with hbii. The daughter of 
.^boinpffia jr Mwmhr'ii i i^ dkvs r c dace d to an income of 
^^tnir rnmsmtt Irvres lost herself in arithmetical 
fr :3ac Tiumfleit her wtt&. 
^ -^ 1 Ure nfturv \aul sex tbooand francs for our 
aliiwaocQ^'* s&e ssii oo lialirixB. ^ Why, how did 
-^mr 'sc^iisr imi anmef r We skill hare nothing now 
^vcn :?«c9i::«^'imr dbBOsni fcancs ; it b destitution ! 
>>i r sr acj g cmui see me so come down in the 
«o«^-«k c vcuia cil iim x Ik were not dead already ! 
^ovr ^V^Ibemuie ^ mul sile bejvr to cry. 

^Mdivina^ puzzled to kiuw bov to comfort her 
.noiSKTy represented to her that ske was still young and 
protty^ cfaac rose-colour still hfriT her, that she could 
continue to go to the Opera and the Boaffbas, where 
Mxnc* dc Nucingen had a box. And so with visions of 
jcaictiesy dances, music, pretty dresseS|and social success. 
Sic Baroness was lulled to sleep and pleasant dreams in 
the blue, silk-curtained bed in the charming room next 
to the chamber in which Jean Bapdste, Baron d'Ald- 
rigger, had breathed his last but two nights ago. 

* Here in a few words is the Baron's history. During 
his lifetime that worthy Alsacien accumulated about 
three millions of francs. In 1800, at the age of thirty- 
six, in the apogee of a fortune made during the Revolu- 
tion, he made a marriage partly of ambition, partly of 
inclination, with the heiress of the family of Adolphus 

The Firm of Nucingen 189 

of Mannheim. Wilhelmine, being the idol of her 
whole family, naturally inherited their wealth after 
some ten years. Next, d'Aldrigger's fortune being 
doubled, he was transformed into a Baron by His 
Majesty, Emperor and King, and forthwith became 
a fanatical admirer of the great man to whom he 
owed his title. Wherefore, between 1814 and 1815 
he ruined himself by a too serious belief in the sun 
of Austerlitz. Honest Alsacien as he was, he did not 
suspend payment, nor did he give his creditors shares in 
doubtful concerns by way of settlement. He paid every- 
thing over the counter, and retired from business, 
thoroughly deserving Nucingen's comment on his 
behaviour — " Honest but stoobid." 

^ All claims satisfied, there remained to him five hun- 
dred thousand francs and certain receipts for sums 
advanced to that Imperial Government, which had 
ceased to exist. ^^ See vat komms of too much pelief in 
Nappolion," said he, when he had realised all his 

^ When you have been one of the leading men in a 
place, how are you to remain in it when your estate 
has dwindled ? D'Aldrigger, like all ruined provincials, 
removed to Paris, there intrepidly wore the tricolour 
braces embroidered with Imperial eagles, and lived 
entirely in Bonapartist circles. His capital he handed 
over to Nucingen, who gave him eight per cent, upon it, 
and took over the loans to the Imperial Government 
at a mere sixty per cent, of reduction ; wherefore 
d'Aldrigger squeezed Nucingen's hand and said, ^^I 
knew dot in you I should find de heart of ein Elzacien." 

(Nucingen was paid in full through our friend des 
Lupeaulx.) Well fleeced as d'Aldrigger had been, he 
still possessed an income of forty-four thousand francs ; 
but his mortification was further complicated by the 
spleen which lies in wait for the business man so soon as 
he retires from business. He set himself, noble heart, to 

1^0 The Finn of Nocmgeii 

ncrifice himself to hk wife^ now that her fbrtime was 
iosc, that fortune of which she had allowed herself to be 
despoiled so easilj, after the manner of a girl entirely 
ignorant of money matters. Bime. d'Aldrigger accord- 
ingly missed not a single pleasure to which she had 
been accustomed ; any void caused by the loss of Stras- 
bourg acquaintances] was speedily filled, and more than 
filled, with Paris gaieties. Even then, as now, the 
Nucingens lived at the higher end of financial society, 
and the Baron de Nucingen made it a point of honour 
CO treat the honest banker well. His disinterested virtue 
looked well in the Nucingen salon. 

^ Every winter dipped into d' Aldrigger's principal, but 
he did not venture to remonstrate with his pearl of a 
Wilhelmine. His was the most ingenious unintelligent 
tenderness in the world. A good man, but a stupid one ! 
^ What will become of them when I am gone ? " he 
said, as he lay dying ; and when he was left alone for 
a moment with Wirth, his old man-servant, he struggled 
for breath to bid him take care of his mistress and her 
two daughters, as if the one reasonable being in the 
house were this Alsacien Caleb Balderstone. 

^ Three years afterwards, in 1826, Isaure was twenty 
years old, and Malvina still unmarried. Malvina had 

gone into society, and in course of time discovered for 
erself how superficial their friendships were, how 
accurately every one was weighed and appraised. 
Like most sii'l^ that have been ^^ well brought up,** as 
we say, Malvina had no idea of the mechanism of life, 
of the importance of money, of the difficulty of obtain- 
ing it, of the prices of things. And so, for six years, 
every lesson that she had learned had been a painful one 
for her. 

^ D'Aldrigger's four hundred thousand francs were 
carried to the credit of the Baroness's account with the 
firm of Nucingen (she was her husband's creditor for 
twelve hundred thousand francs under her marriage 

The Firm of Nucingcn 191 

settlement), and when in any difficulty the Shepherdess 
of the Alps dipped into her capital as though it were 

^ When our pigeon first advanced towards his dove, 
Nucingen, knowing the Baroness's character, must have 
spoken plainly to Malvina on the financial position. At 
that time three hundred thousand francs were left ; the 
income of twenty-four thousand francs was reduced to 
eighteen thousand. Wirth had kept up this state of 
things for three years! After that confidential inter- 
view, Malvina put down the carriage, sold the horses, 
and dismissed the coachman, without her mother's 
knowledge. The furniture, now ten years old, could 
not be renewed, but it all faded together, and for those 
that like harmony the effect was not half bad. The 
Baroness herself, that so well-preserved flower, began to 
look like the last solitary frost-touched rose on a 
November bush. I myself watched the slow decline 
of luxury by half-tones and semitones ! Frightful, upon 
my honour ! It was my last trouble of the kind ; after- 
wards I said to myself, ^^It is silly to care so much 
about other people." But while I was in the civil 
service, I was fool enough to take a personal interest 
in the houses where I dined ; I used to stand up for 
them ; I would say no ill of them myself; I — oh ! I was 
a child. 

*Well, when the ci-devant pearl's daughter put the 
state of the case before her, " Oh, my poor children," 
cried she, ^^ who will make my dresses now ? I cannot 
afford new bonnets ; I cannot see visitors here nor go 
out." — Now by what token do you know that a man is 
in love?* said Bixiou, interrupting himself. 'The 
question is, whether Beaudenord was genuinely in love 
with the fair-haired girl.' 

' He neglects his interests,' said Couture. 

' He changes his shirt three times a day,' from Finot. 

* There is another question to settle first,' opined 

i(f2 The Firm of Nucingen 

Blondet ) * a man of more tbiui ordinary^ ability, caA hc^ 
and ought he, to fall in love I * 

' My friendf,* resumed Bixiou, with a fentimental air, 
' there i% a kind of nun who, when he feelf that be if in 
peril of falling in love, will «nap hf« iingeri or fling awajr 
iiif c:i^ar (a« the cian; mav be) with a ** Hoob I there are 
other women in the world.** Beware of that man for a 
dangerous reptile. Still, the Government may employ 
that citizen somewhere in the Foreign i)thc€. Blondet^ 
I call your attention to the fact that this (iodefroid bad 
thrown up diplomacy/ 

^ Welly he was alisfjrbed,' said Blondet. ^Love gives 
the fr>ol his one chance of growing great.* 

* Blondet, Blondet, how is it that we are so poor t * 
cried Jiixiou. 

' And why is Kinot vi rich ?* returned Blondet* *I 
will tell you how it is ; there, my s^in, we understand 
ea«:h other. 0>me, here is Finot filling up my efawi at 
if J had carried in his firewood. At the end of dinner 
one ought to sip one's wine slowly. — Well t * 

^Thou hast said. The absorbed G^xlefroid became 
fully accjuainted with the family- the tall Malvina, the 
frivolous Jtaroness, and the litf Ic lady of the dance. He 
l>ecamc a servant after the most conscientious and 
restricted fashion. He was not scared away by the 
cadaverous remains of opulence; not he! by degrees 
he became ac<:ustomed to the threadbare condition of 
things. It never struck the young man that the green 
silk damask and white ornaments in the drawing-room 
were shabby, s|iotted, and old-fashioned, and that the 
Totnii needed refurnishing. The curtains, the tea-table, 
the knick-knacks on the chimney-piece, the rcKoco chan- 
delier, the Kastcrn car^nrt with the pile worn dc/wn to 
the thread, the pianoforte, the little flowered china cupi. 
the fringed serviettes %i> full of holes that they looked 
like o[>en work in the S|>anish fashion, the green sitfing- 
nnmi with the Baroness's blue bedroom ixryond it,— -it 

Tie F:rrr. ;< ■:.„,„,„. 

X WBiL. Xn:Z - SL:- ^fSm 

1 94 The Firm of Nucingen 

you with the waspish solicitude of excessive affection 
that must know all things and rule all things ' 

^This comes home,' said Blondet, ^but, my dear 
fellow, this is not telling a story, this is blague ' 

^ Blondet, if you were not tipsy, I should really feel 
hurt ! He is the one serious literary character among 
us ; for his benefit, I honour you by treating you like 
men of taste, I am distilling my tale for you, and now he 
criticises me ! There is no greater proof of intellectual 
sterility, my friends, than the piling up of facts. Le 
Aftsanthropij that supreme comedy, shows us that art 
consists in the power of building a palace on a needle's 
point. The gist of my idea is in the fairy wand which 
can turn the Desert into an Interlaken in ten seconds 
(precisely the time required to empty this glass). Would , 
you rather that I fired a story off at you like a cannon- 
ball, or a commander-in-chief's report ? We chat and 
laugh ; and this journalist, a bibliophobe when sober, 
expects me, forsooth, when he is drunk, to teach my 
tongue to move at the dull jog-trot of a printed book.' 
(Here he affected to weep.) *Woe unto the French 
imagination when men ^in would blunt the needle 
points of her pleasant humour! Dies irae! Let us 
weep for CandiiU. Long live the Kritik of Pure Reason^ 
La SymboUque^ and the systems in five closely packed 
volumes, printed by Germans, who little suspect that the 
gist of the matter has been known in Paris since 1 750, 
and crystallised in a few trenchant words — the diamonds 
of our national thought. Blondet is driving a hearse to 
his own suicide ; Blondet, forsooth ! who manufactures 
newspaper accounts of the last words of all the great 
men that die without saying anything ! ' 

* Come, get on,' put in Finot. 

^ It was my intention to explain to you in what the 
happiness of a man consists when he is not a shareholder 
(out of compliment to Couture). Well, now, do you 
not see at what a price Godefroid secured the greatest 


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The Firm of Nucingen 195 

happiness of a young man's dream ? He was trying to 
understand Isaure, by way of making sure that she should 
understand him. Things which comprehend one another 
must needs be similar. Infinity and Nothingness, for 
instance, are like; everything that lies between the two 
is like neither. Nothingness is stupidity ; genius, In- 
finity. The lovers wrote each other the stupidest letters 
imaginable, putting down various expressions then in 
fashion upon bits of scented paper : ^^ Angel ! ^olian 
harp ! with thee I shall be complete ! There is a heart 
in my man's breast ! Weak woman, poor me ! " all the 
latest heart- frippery. It was Godefroid's wont to stay in 
a drawing-room for a bare ten minutes ; he talked with- 
out any pretension to the women in it, and at those 
times they thought him very clever. In short, judge of 
his absorption ; Joby, his horses and carriages, became 
secondary interests in his life. He was never happy 
except in the depths of a snug settee opposite the 
Baroness, by the dark-green porphyry chimney-piece, 
watching Isaure, taking tea, and chatting with the little 
circle of friends that dropped in every evening between 
eleven and twelve in the Rue Joubert. You could 
play bouillotte there safely. (I always won.) Isaure 
sat with one little foot thrust out in its black satin 
shoe; Godefroid would gaze and gaze, and stay till 
everyone else was gone, and say, "Give me your shoe!" 
and Isaure would put her little foot on a chair and take 
it off and give it to him, with a glance, one of those 
glances that — in short, you understand. 

* At length Godefroid discovered a great mystery in 
Malvina. Whenever du Tillet knocked at the door, the 
live red that coloured Malvina's &ce said ^^ Ferdinand ! " 
When the poor girl's eyes fell on that two-footed tiger, 
they lighted up like a brazier fanned by a current of air. 
When Ferdinand drew her away to the window or a 
side table, she betrayed her secret infinite joy. It is a 
rare and beautiful thing to see a woman so much in love 

196 The Firm of Nucingen 

that she loses her cunning to be Strang^ and you can 
read her heart ; as rare (dear me 1) in Paris as tne Sina;- 
ing Flower in the Indies. But m spite of a friendship 
dating from the d'Aldrieeers' first appearance at the 
Nucingens', Ferdinand did not marrv Malvina. Our 
ferocious friend was not apparently jealous of Desroches, 
who paid assiduous court to the young lady ; Desroches 
wanted to pay off the rest of the purchase-monev due for 
his connection ; Malvina could not well have lest than 
fifty thousand crowns, he thought, and so the lawyer 
was fain to play the lover. Malvina, deeplv humiliated 
as she was by du Tillct's carelessness, loved nim too well 
to shut the door upon him. With her, an enthusiastic, 
highly-wrought, sensitive girl, love sometimes got the 
better of pride, and pride again overcame wounded love. 
Our friend Ferdinand, cool and self-possessed, accepted 
her tenderness, and breathed the atmosphere with the 
quiet enjoymentof a tiger lickine the blood that dyes his 
throat. He would come to make sure of it witn new 
proofs ; he never allowed two days to pass without a 
visit to the Rue Joubert. 

^At that time the rascal possessed something like 
eighteen hundred thousand francs ; money must have 
weighed very little with him in the question of marriage ; 
and he had not merely been proof against Malvina, he 
had resisted the Barons de Nucingen and de Rastignac ; 
though both of them had set him galloping at the rate of 
seventy-five leaeues a day, with outriders, regardless of 
expense, through mazes of their cunning devices--4md 
with never a clue of thread. 

^ Godefroid could not refrain from saying a word to 
his future sister-in-law as to her ridiculous position 
between a banker and an attorney. 

* ^^ You mean to read me a lecture on the subject of 
Ferdinand," she said frankly, ^*to know the secret 
between us. Dear Godefroid, never mention this ag»in. 
Ferdinand's birth, antecedents, and fortune count for 

The Firm of Nucingcn 197 

nothing in this, so you may think it is something extra- 
ordinary." A few days afterwards, however, Malvina 
took (jodefroid apart to say, ^^I do not think that 
Desroches is sincere " (such is the instinct of love) ; '^ he 
would like to marry me, and he is paying court to some 
tradesman's daughter as well. I should very much like 
to know whether I am a second shift, and whether 
marriage is a matter of money with him." The fact 
was that Desroches, deep as he was, could not make out 
du Tillet, and was afraid that he might marry Malvina. 
So the fellow had secured his retreat. His position was 
intolerable, he was scarcely paying his expenses and 
interest on the debt. Women understand nothing of 
these things ; for them, love is always a millionaire.' 

*But since neither du Tillet nor Desroches married 
her, just explain Ferdinand's motive,' said Finot. 

* Motive?' repeated Bixiou ; *why, this. General 
Rule : A girl that has once given away her slipper, even 
if she refused it for ten years, is never married by the 
man who ' 

* Bosh ! ' interrupted Blondet, ^ one reason for loving is 
the fact that one has loved. His motive ? Here it is. 
General Rule : Do not marry as a sergeant when some 
day you may be Duke of Dantzig and Marshal of 
France. Now, see what a match du Tillet has made 
since then. He married one of the Comte de Granville's 
daughters, into one of the oldest families in the French 

* Desroches' mother had a friend, a druggist's wife,' 
continued Bixiou. ^ Said druggist had retired with a fat 
fortune. These druggist folk have absurdly crude notions ; 
by way of giving his daughter a good education, he had 
sent her to a boarding-school ! Well, Matifat meant 
the girl to marry well, on the strength of two hundred 
thousand francs, good hard coin with no scent of drugs 
about it.' 

^ Florine's Mati&t ? ' asked Blondet. 

198 The Firm of Sxxingen 

^WcH^rei. Loasteaa*s Mati&t ; oiin» in £Kt. The 
Mati&n^ croi then lost to us, hmd gone to Iitc in the 
Rue du Chcrchc-Midi, as fkr as mzj be from the Rue 
des Lombards^ whefe their money was made For my 
o«m pacrty I had cultivated those Matifats. While I 
served mv time in the galleys of the law, when I was 
CYioped up for eight hours out of the twenty-four with 
ninci^mpoops of the first water, I saw queer characters 
enough to convince myself that all is not dead-level even 
in oSscure places, and that in the flattest inanity you 
mav chance upon an angle. Yes, dear boy, such and 
such a philistine is to such another as Rafiiel is to 

^ Mme. Desroches, the widowed mother, had long ago 
planned this marriage for her son, in spite of a tremendous 
obstacle which took the shape of one Cochin, Mati&t's 
panner^s son^ a roung clerk in the audit department. 
M. and Mme. Kfatifiit were of the opinion that an 
attorney's position ^^gave some guarantee for a wife's 
happiness^** to use their own expression ; and as for 
Desroches, he was prepared to fall in with his mother's 
view's in case he could do no better for himself. Where- 
fore^ he kept up his acquaintance with the druggists in 
the Rue du Cherche*Midi. 

^ To put another kind of happiness before you, you 
should have a description of these shopkeepers, male and 
fomale. Tliey rejoiced in the possession of a handsome 
ground floor and a strip of garden ; for amusement, they 
watched a little squirt of water, no bigger than a corn- 
stalk, perpetually rising and falling upon a small round 
freestone slab in the middle of a basin some six feet 
across ; they would rise early of a morning to see if the 
plants in the garden had grown in the night ; they had 
nothing to do, they were restless, they dressed for the 
sake of dressing, bored themselves at the theatre, and 
were for ever going to and fro between Paris and 
Luzarches, where they had a country house. I have 
dined there. 

The Firm of Nucingen 199 

^ Once they tried to quiz me, Blondet. I told them 
a long-winded story that lasted from nine o'clock till 
midnight, one tale inside another. I had just brought 
my twenty-ninth personage upon the scene (the news- 
papers have plagiarised with their "continued in our 
next "), when old Matifat, who as host still held out, 
snored like the rest, after blinking for five minutes. 
Next day they all complimented me upon the ending of 
my tale ! 

* These tradespeople's society consisted of M. and 
Mme. Cochin, Mme. Desroches, and a young Popinot, 
still in the drug business, who used to bring them news 
of the Rue des Lombards. (You know him, Finot.) 
Mme. Matifat loved the arts ; she bought lithographs, 
chromo-lithographs, and coloured prints, — all the cheapest 
things she could lay her hands on. The Sieur Matifat 
amused himself by looking into new business speculations, 
investing a little capital now and again for the sake of 
the excitement. Florine had cured him of his taste for 
the Regency style of thing. One saying of his will give 
you some idea of the depths in my Mati&t. ^^ Art thou 
going to bed, my nieces ? " he used to say when he wished 
them good-night, because (as he explained) he was afraid 
of hurting their feelings with the more formal " you." 

*The daughter was a girl with no manner at all. 
She looked rather like a superior sort of housemaid. She 
could get through a sonata, she wrote a pretty English 
hand, knew French grammar and orthography — a com- 
plete commercial education, in short. She was impatient 
enough to be married and leave the paternal roof, find- 
ing it as dull at home as a lieutenant finds the night- 
watch at sea ; at the same time, it should be said that 
her watch lasted through the whole twenty-four hours. 
Desroches or Cochin junior, a notary or a lifeguards- 
man, or a sham English lord, — any husband would have 
suited her. As she so obviously knew nothing of life, 
I took pity upon her, I determined to reveal the great 

200 The Firm of Nucingen 

secret of it. But, pooh ! the Matifats shut their doors 
on me. The bourgeois and I shall never understand 
each other.* 

^ She married General Gouraud,* said Finot. 

^ In forty-eight hours, Godefroid de Beaudenord, late 
of the diplomatic corps, saw through the Matifats and 
their nefarious designs,' resumed Bixiou. ^ Rastignac 
happened to be chatting with the frivolous Baroness 
when Godefroid came in to give his report to Malvina. 
A word here and there reached his ear ; he guessed the 
sxatter on foot, more particularly from Malvina's look 
Of nnstiction that it was as she had suspected. Then 
S^K'^cutc actually stopped on till two o'clock in the 
3».Y?::7{. And ret there are those that call him selfish! 
iN»4iCKO)kYv£ tcok his departure when the Baroness went 

^ As scuxi as Rastignac was left alone with Malvina, 
Ik spi^ke in i fatherly, good-humoured fashion. ^^ Dear 
child, please to bear in aiind that a poor fellow, heavy 
with sleep, has been drinking tea to keep himself awake 
till two o'clock in the morning, all for a chance of say- 
ing a solenm word of advice to you — Marry f Do 
not be too particular ; do not brood over your feelings ; 
never mind the sordid schemes of men that have one 
foot here and another in the Matifats' house ; do not 
stop to think at all : Marry ! — When a girl marries, it 
means that the man whom she marries undertakes to 
maintain her in a more or less good position in life, and 
at any rate her comfort is assured. I know the world. 
Girls, mammas, and grandmammas are all of them 
hypocrites when they fly off into sentiment over a 
question of marriage. Nobody really thinks of any- 
thing but a good position. If a mother marries her 
daughter well, she sajrs that she has made an excellent 
bargain." Here Rastignac unfolded his theory of 
marriage, which to his way of thinking is a business 
arrangement, with a view to making life tolerable; and 

The Firm of Nucingen 201 

ended up with, ^^I do not ask to know your secret, 
Malvina ; I know it already. Men talk things over 
among themselves, just as you women talk after you 
leave the dinner-table. This is all I have to say : 
Marry. If you do not, remember that I begged you to 
marry, here, in this room, this evening ! " 

* There was a certain ring in Rastignac's voice which 
compelled, not attention, but reflection. There was 
something startling in his insistence ; something that 
went, as Kastignac meant that it should, to the quick of 
Malvina's intelligence. She thought over the counsel 
again next day, and vainly asked herself why it had 
been given.' 

Couture broke in. ^ In all these tops that you have 
set spinning, I see nothing at all like the beginnings of 
Rastignac's fortune,' said he. ^ You apparently take us 
for Matifats multiplied by half-a-dozen bottles of cham- 

* We are just coming to it,' returned Bixiou. * You 
have followed the course of all the rivulets which make 
up that forty thousand livres a year which so many 
people envy. By this time Rastignac held the threads 
of all these lives in his hand.' 

^Desroches, the Mati&ts, Beaudenord, the d'Ald- 
riggers, d'Aiglemont ? ' 

^ Yes, and a hundred others,' assented Bixiou. 

* Oh, come now, how ? ' cried Finot. ' I know a few 
things, but I cannot see a glimpse of an answer to this 

* Blondet has roughly given you the account of Nucin- 
gen's first two suspensions of payment ; now for the 
third, with full details. — After the peace of 1815, 
Nucingen grasped an idea which some of us only fully 
understood later, to wit, that capital is a power only 
when you are very much richer than other people. In 
his own mind, he was jealous of the Rothschilds. He 
had five millions of fi'ancs, he wanted ten. He knew a 

202 The Firm of Nucingen 

way to make thirty millions with ten, while with five 
he could onlv nuke fifteen. So he made up his mind to 
operate a tnird suspension of payment. About that 
time, the great man hit on the idea of indemnifying his 
creditors with paper of purely fictitious value and keep- 
ing their coin. On the market, a great idea of this 
sort is not expressed in precisely this cut-and-dried way. 
Such an arrangement consists in giving a lot of grown-up 
children a small pie in exchange for a gold piece ; and, 
like children of a smaller growth, they prefer the pie to 
the eold piece, not suspecting that they might have a 
couple of hundred pies for it.* 

*What is all this about, Bixiou?' cried Couture. 
* Nothing more bona Me. Not a week passes but pies 
are offered to the public for a louis. But who compels 
the public to take them ? Are they not perfectly free 
to make inquiries ? ' 

^ You would rather have it made compulsory to take 
up shares, would you ? ' asked Blondet. 

* No,* said Finot. * Where would the talent come 

* Very good for Finot.* 

^ Who put him up to it ? * asked Couture. 

*The feet was,* continued Bixiou, *that Nucingen 
had twice had the luck to present the public (quite 
unintentionally) with a pie that turned out to be worth 
more than the money he received for it. That unlucky 
good luck gave him qualms of conscience. A course of 
such luck is fetal to a man in the long run. This time 
he meant to make no mistake of this sort ; he waited 
ten years for an opportunity of issuing negotiable 
securities which should seem on the fece of it to be 
worth something, while as a matter of fact * 

^ But if you look at banking in that light,* broke in 
Couture, ^ no sort of business would be possible. More 
than one bona fide banker, backed up by a bona fide 
government, has induced the hardest-headed men on 

The Firm of Nucingcn 203 

'Change to take up stock which was bound to fall 
within a given time. You have seen^better than that. 
Have you not seen stock created with the concurrence 
of a government to pay the interest upon older stock, 
so as to keep things going and tide over the difficulty ? 
These operations were more or less like Nucingen*s 

^The thing may look queer on a small scale/ said 
Blondet, * but on a large we call it finance. There are 
high-handed proceedings criminal between man and man 
that amount to nothing when spread out over any 
number of men, much as a drop of prussic acid becomes 
harmless in a pail of water. You take a man's life, you 
are guillotined. But if, for any political conviction 
whatsoever, you take five hundred lives, political crimes 
are respected. You take five thousand francs out of my 
desk ; to the hulks you go. But with a sop cleverly 
pushed into the jaws of a thousand speculators, you 
can cram the stock of any bankrupt republic or 
monarchy down their throats ; even if the loan has been 
floated, as Couture says, to pay the interest on that very 
same national debt. Nobody can complain. These are 
the real principles of the present Golden Age.' 

^ When the stage machinery is so huge,' continued 
Bixiou, ^a good many puppets are required. In the 
first place, Nucingen had purposely and with his eyes 
open invested his five millions in an American invest- 
ment, foreseeing that the profits would not come in 
until it was too late. The firm of Nucingen de- 
liberately emptied its coffers. Any liquidation ought to 
be brought about naturally. In deposits belonging to 
private individuals and other investments, the firm pos- 
sessed about six millions of capital altogether. Among 
those private individuals was the Baroness d'Aldrigger 
with her three hundred thousand francs, Beaudenord with 
four hundred thousand, d'Aiglemont with a million, 
Matifot with three hundred thousand, Charles Grandet 

The Firm of Nucingen 

(vho nairied IfDe. fAobrion) with half a million, and 
w ibrth, and so forth. 

^ Now, it Nadngcn had himself brought out a joint- 
stock companT, with the shares of which he proposed to 
inuemninr his creditors after more or less ingenious 
nLmoruvring, he might perhaps have been suspected. 
He set about it more cunningly than that. He made 
»me sMte else put up the machinery that was to play the 
?art cr chc Mississippi scheme in Law's system. Nucin- 
jcn can make the longest-headed men work out his 
schemes ax- him without confiding a word to them ; it 
is his peculiar talent. Nucingen just let fall a hint to 
iu Tlllet of the pyramidal, triumphant notion of bring- 
ing out a joint-stock enterprise with capital sufficient to 
paT Yerr high dividends for a time. Tried for the first 
nme« in days when noodles with capital were plentiful, 
the pian was pretty sure to end in a run upon the shares, 
and consecjuently in a profit for the banker that issued 
them. You must remember that this happened in 1826. 

^ Du Tillet, struck though he was by an idea both 
pregtant and ingenious, naturally bethought himself 
that if the enterprise &iled, the blame must fall upon 
somebody. For which reason, it occurred to him to 
put forward a figurehead director in charge of his com- 
merctal machinery. At this day you know the secret of 
the firm of Claparon and Company, founded by du Tillet, 
one of the finest inventions ' 

^ Yes,* said Blondet, ^ the responsible editor in business 
matters^ the instigator, and scapegoat ; but we know 
b etter than that nowadays. We put, ^^ Apply at the 
offices of the Company, such and such a number, such 
and such a street," where the public find a staff of clerks 
in green caps, about as pleasing to behold as broker's 

^ Nucingen,' pursued Bixiou, ^ had supported the firm 
of Charles Claparon and Company with all his credit. 
There were markets in which you might safely put 

The Firm of Nucingen 205 

a million francs' worth of Claparon's paper. So du 
Tillet proposed to bring his firm of Claparon to the 
fore. So said, so done. In 1825 the shareholder was 
still an unsophisticated being. There was no such 
thing as cash lying at call. Managing directors did not 
pledge themselves not to put their own shares upon the 
market ; they kept no deposit with the Bank of France ; 
they guaranteed nothing. They did not even conde- 
scend to explain to shareholders the exact limits of their 
liabilities when they informed them that the directors, 
in their goodness, refrained from asking any more than a 
thousand, or five hundred, or even two hundred and fifty 
francs. It was not given out that the experiment in 
are publico was not meant to last for more than seven, 
five, or even three years, so that shareholders would not 
have long to wait for the catastrophe. It was in the 
childhood of the art. Promoters did not even publish 
the gigantic prospectuses with which they stimulate 
the imagination, and at the same time make demands 
for money of all and sundry.* 

* That only comes when nobody wishes to part with 
money,' said Couture. 

* In short, there was no competition in investments,* 
continued Bixiou. 'Papier-mache manu&cturers, 
cotton printers, zinc-rollers, theatres, and newspapers as 
yet did not hurl themselves like hunting dogs upon their 
quarry — the expiring shareholder. "Nice things in 
shares," as Couture says, put thus artlessly before the 
public, and backed up by the opinions of experts (" the 
princes of science "), were negotiated sHamefecedly in the 
silence and shadow of the Bourse. Lynx-eyed specula- 
tors used to execute (financially speaking) the air 
Calumny out of The Barber of Seville. They went about 
piano J pianoy making known the merits of the concern 
through the medium of stock-exchange gossip. They 
could only exploit the victim in his own house, on the 
Bourse, or in company ; so they reached him by means 

2o6 The Firm of Nucmgen 

of the skilfully created rumour which grew till it 

reached a tmtti of a quotation in four figures ' 

^ And as we can say anything among ourselves^' said 
Couture, * I will go baick to the last subject.' 

* Fnu itis orfivrej Monsieur Josse ! * cried Finot. 

* Finot will alws^s be classic, constitutional, and ped- 
antic,' commented Blondet. 

^Yes,' rejoined Couture, on whose account Cerizet 
had just been condemned on a criminal charge. ^I 
maintain that the new way is infinitely less fraudulent, 
less ruinous, more straightforward than the old. Publi- 
city means time for reflection and inquiry. If here and 
there a shareholder is taken in, he has himself to blame, 
nobody sells him a pig in a poke. The manufacturing 
industry ' 

* Ah ! ' exclaimed Bixiou, * here comes industry ' 

* is a gainer by it,' continued Couture, taking no 

notice of the interruption. * Every government that 
meddles with commerce and cannot leave it free, sets 
about an expensive piece of folly ; State interference ends 
in a maximum or a monopoly. To my thinking, few 
things can be more in conformity with the principles of 
free trade than joint-stock companies. State interference 
means that you try to regulate the relations of principal 
and interest, which is absurd. In business, genendly 
speaking;, the profits are in proportion to the risks. 
What does it matter to the State how money is set 
circulating, provided that it is always in circulation ? 
What does it matter who is rich or who is poor, provided 
that there is a constant quantity of rich people to be 
taxed ? Joint-stock companies, limited liability com- 
panies, every sort of enterprise that pays a dividend, has 
been carried on for twenty years in flngland, commer- 
cially the first country in the world. Nothing passes 
unchallenged there ; the Houses of Parliament hatch 
tome twelve hundred laws every session, yet no member 
of Parliament has ever yet raised an objection to the 

The Firm of Nucingen 207 

* A cure for plethora of the strong box. Purely vege- 
table remedy,* put in Bixiou, ^ les carottes^ (gamWing 

* Look here ! ' cried Couture, firing up at this. * You 
have ten thousand francs. You invest it in ten shares of 
a thousand francs each in ten different enterprises. You 
are swindled nine times out of the ten — as a matter of 
fact you are not, the public is a match for anybody, but 
say that you are swindled, and only one affair turns out 
well (by accident ! — oh, granted ! — it was not done on 
purpose — there, chaff" away !). Very well, the punter 
that has the sense to divide up his stakes in this way 
hits on a splendid investment, like those did who took 
shares in the Wortschin mines. Gentlemen, let us 
admit among ourselves that those who call out are 
hypocrites, desperately vexed because they have no good 
ideas of their own, and neither power to advertise nor 
skill to exploit a business. You will not have long to 
wait for proof. In a very short time you will see the 
aristocracy, the coiirr, and public men descend into 
speculation in serried columns ; you will see that their 
claws are longer, their morality more crooked than ours, 
while they have not our good points. What a head a 
man must have if he has to found a business in times 
when the shareholder is as covetous and keen as the 
inventor ! What a great magnetiser must he be that 
can create a Claparon and hit upon expedients never 
tried before ! Do you know the moral of it all ? Our 
age is no better than we are ; we live in an era of greed ; 
no one troubles himself about the intrinsic value of a 
thing if he can only make a profit on it by selling it to 
somebody else ; so he passes it on to his neighbour. 
The shareholder that thinks he sees a chance of making 
money is just as covetous as the founder that offers him 
the opportunity of making it.* 

* Isn't he fine, our Couture ? Isn't he fine ? * ex- 
claimed Bixiou, turning to Blondet. ^ He will ask us 

2o8 The Finn of Nudngen 

next to etect ftatoes to him as m bene&ctor of the 

^It would lead peofJe to conclude that the fool's 
monef is the wise man's patrimony by divine right,' 
said Blondet. 

*' Gentlemen,' cried Couture, * let us have our laugh 
out here to make up for all the times when we must 
listen gravely to solemn nonsense justifying laws passed 
on the spur of the moment.' 

* He is right,' said Blondet. ^ What times we live in, 
gentlemen ! When the (ire of intelligence appears 
among us, it is promptly quenched by haphazard legis- 
lation. Almost all our lawgivers come up from little 
parishes where they studied human nature through the 
medium of the newspapers ; forthwith they shut down 
the safety-valve, and when the machinery blows up there 
is weeping and gnashing of teeth ! We do nothing 
nowadays but pass penal laws and levy taxes. Will you 
have the sum of it all ? — ^There is no religion left in the 
State ! ' 

^ Oh, bravo, Blondet ! ' cried Bixiou, ^ thou hast set 
thy finger on the weak spot. Meddlesome taxation has 
lost us more victories here in France than the vexatious 
chances of war. I once spent seven years in the hulks 
of a government department, chained with bourgeois 
to my bench. There was a clerk in the office, a man 
with a head on his shoulders ; he had set his mind upon 
making a sweeping reform of the whole fiscal system — 
ah, well, we took the conceit out of him nicely. 
France might have been too prosperous, you know ; 
she might have amused herself by conquering Europe 
again ; we acted in the interests of the peace of nations. 
I slew Rabourdin with a caricature.' ^ 

* By reliritm I do not mean cant ; I use the word in 
its wide pcHitical sense,' rejoined Blondet. 

* Explain your meaning,' said Finot. 

^ See Lcs Ew^/s, 

The Firm of Nucingen 209 

^Here it is,' returned Blondet. ^ There has been a 
good deal said about affairs at Lyons; about the Republic 
cannonaded in the streets ; well, there was not a word 
of truth in it all. The Republic took up the riots, just 
as an insurgent snatches up a rifle. The truth is queer 
and profound, I can tell you. The Lyons trade is a 
soulless trade. They will not weave a yard of silk unless 
they have the order and are sure of payment. If orders 
fall off, the workmen may starve ; they can scarcely earn 
a living, convicts are better off. After the Revolution 
of July, the distress reached such a pitch that the Lyons 
weavers — the canutSy as they call them — hoisted the flag, 
^^ Bread or Death ! ^ a proclamation of a kind which 
compels the attention of a government. It was really 
brought about by the cost of living at Lyons ; Lyons 
must build theatres and become a metropolis, forsooth, 
and the octroi duties accordingly were insanely high. 
The Republicans got wind of this bread riot, they organ- 
ised the canuts in two camps, and fought among them- 
selves. Lyons had her Three Days, but order was restored, 
and the silk weavers went back to their dens. Hitherto 
the canut had been honest ; the silk for his work was 
weighed out to him in hanks, and he brought back the 
same weight of woven tissue; now he made up his 
mind that the silk merchants were oppressing him ; 
he put honesty out at the door and rubbed oil on his 
fingers. He still brought back weight for weight, but 
he sold the silk represented by the oil ; and the French 
silk trade has suffered from a plague of ^^ greased silks," 
which might have ruined Lyons and a whole branch of 
French commerce. The masters and the government, 
instead of removing the causes of the evil, simply drove 
it in with a violent external application. They ought 
to have sent a clever man to Lyons, one of those men 
that are said to have no principle, an Abbe Tcrray ; but 
they looked at the affair from a military point of view. 
The result of the troubles is a gros de Naples at forty 

Tkt Finn of Nudngen 

sEk B sold It this daj, I dare say, and 
h»rc hit upon some new check 
hod of manufacturing without 
to have existed in the country 
nsc jf :hc g^reat c st cxtixens that France has ever 
iin«iw*t mnai ii i iDiicif to keep six thousand weavers in 
^vnrc 9TC3CUC orierv Richard Lenoir fed them, and 
:ae jq» grimi atc to thickheaded enough to allow him to 
^^affis' Tdat tfte ail or the prices of textile fabrics brought 
immc ^ :ae StcvooicoQ of 1814. Richard Lenoir is 
:"ic ^m ow: jr a j a ticka at that deserves a statue. And 
vcc ric iuaKr.^cua xt 00 feot for him has no sub- 
^crrbcrv wmie die finad §at General Foy's children 
r^oKticit a auIioK 111 w:k. Ljons has drawn her own 
ctiQiduaiuiis ;. ite kaovs France, she knows that there is 
3a :^^tia leflL The saonr of Richard Lenoir is one 
v^ :ausc Mttoiers wftKh Foache coDdenm^ 

^'So^^Me dhiC d h cLi is a tinge of charlatanism in the 
«mv in whtdk coaccras ue p«t beibre the public,' began 
OmiDtnt^ c c turwin ig to the charge, *that word clmr- 
'm^rhiai ha» coar to be a damaging expression, a 
3U«iulc oera^ » it wcre^ btwiia ri^t and wrong ; for 
wlhH^ I jsk vQis^ dMS charbtanism begin ? where does 
ic tncd .^ whttc is charfataniwp ? do me the kindness of 
Mlia^ OK whttc it ts mtt^ Now for a Httle plain speak- 
Lrt^ dibe nnst social ingredient. A business which 
shixili CMBtst vk going out at night to look for goods 
t^ sell lA the doLT wodU be obviously impossible. You 
&iKi the iflBtiQict of fixestalKng the market in the very 
OKitcfisadtkr. How to ferestaU the market — that is the 
one idea of the so-called honest tradesman of the Rue 
Saint^Dettb, as of the most bmen-fronted speculator. 
If stocks are heavy, sell you must. If sales are slow, 
Toa must tickle your customer ; hence the signs of the 
Middle Ages, hence the modem prospectus. I do not 
see a hairVbrcadth of difference between attracting 

The Firm of Nucingen 211 

custom and forcing your goods upon the consumer. 
It may happen, it is sure to happen, it often happens, 
that a shopkeeper gets hold of damaged goods, for the 
seller always cheats the buyer. Go and ask the most 
upright folk in Paris — the best known men in business, 
that is — and they will all triumphantly tell you of dodges 
by which they passed off stock which they knew to be 
l^d upon the public. The well-known firm of Minard 
began by sales of this kind. In the Rue Saint-Denis 
they sell nothing but " greased silk " ; it is all that they 
can do. The most honest merchants tell you in the 
most candid way that ^^you must get out of a bad 
bargain as best you can" — a motto for the most un- 
scrupulous rascality. Blondet has given you an account 
of the Lyons affair, its causes and effects, and I proceed 
in my turn to illustrate my theory with an anecdote : — 
There was once a woollen weaver, an ambitious man, 
burdened with a large family of children by a wife too 
much beloved. He put too much faith in the Republic, 
laid in a stock of scarlet wool, and manufactured those 
red-knitted caps that you may have noticed on the heads 
of all the street urchins in Paris. How this came about 
I am just going to tell you. The Republic was beaten. 
After the Saint-Merri affair the caps were quite unsale- 
able. Now, when a weaver finds that beside a wife and 
children he has some ten thousand red woollen caps in 
the house, and that no hatter will take a single one 
of them, notions begin to pass through his head as fast 
as if he were a banker racking his brains to get rid of 
ten million francs' worth of shares in some dubious 
investment. As for this Law of the Faubourg, this 
Nucingen of caps, do you know what he did ? He 
went to find a pothouse dandy, one of those comic men 
that drive police sergeants to despair at open-air dancing 
saloons at the barriers ; him he engaged to play the part 
of an American captain staying at Meurice's and buy- 
ing for the export trade. He was to go to some large 

212 The Finn of Nudngen 

hatter, who trill had a cap in his shop window, and 
* inquire for* ten diovsand red woollen caps. The 
hatter, scenting business in the wind, hurried round to 
the wocdlen weaver and rushed upon the stock. After 
that, no more of the American captain, jou understand, 
and great plentj of caps. If you interfere with the 
freedom of trade, because firee trade has its drawbacks, 
joa might as well rie the hands of jusrice because a 
crime somerimes goes unpunished, or blame the bad 
organisarion of society because civilisarion produces some 
evils. From the caps and the Rue Saint-Denis to joint- 
stock compamies and the Bank— draw your own con- 

^A crown for Couture!* said Blondet, twisting a 
serviette into a wreath for his head. ^ I go further than 
that, gentlemen. If there is a defect in the working 
hypothesis, what is the cause ? The law ! the whole 
system of legislation. The blame rests with the legisla- 
ture. The great men of their districts are sent up to us 
by the prorinces, crammed with parochial notions of right 
and wrong ; and ideas that are indispensable if you want 
to keep clear of collisions with justice, are stupid when 
they prevent a man from rising to the height at which a 
maker of laws ought to abide. Legislation may prohibit 
such and such developments of human passions — 
gambling, lotteries, the Ninons of the pavement, any- 
thing you please — but you cannot extirpate the passions 
themselves by any amount of legislation. Abolish 
them, you would abolish the society which developes 
them, even if it does not produce them. The gambling 
passion lurks, for instance, at the bottom of every heart, 
be it a girPs heart, a provincial's, a diploniatist's ; every- 
body longs to have money without working for it ; you 
may hedge the desire about with restrictions, but the 
gambling mania immediately breaks out in another form. 
You stupidly suppress lotteries, but the cook-maid pilfers 
none the less, and puts her ill-gotten gains in the savings 

The Firm of Nucingen 213 

bank. She gambles with two hundred and fifty franc 
stakes insteaa of forty sous ; joint-stock companies and 
speculation take the place of the lottery; the gam- 
bling goes on without the green cloth, the croupier's 
rake is invisible, the cheating planned beforehand. The 
gambling houses are closed, the lottery has come to 
an end j " and now," cry idiots, " morals have greatly 
improved in France," as if, forsooth, they had sup- 
pressed the punters. The gambling still goes on, only 
the State makes nothing from it now ; and for a tax 
paid with pleasure, it has substituted a burdensome duty. 
Nor is the number of suicides reduced, for the gambler 
never dies, though his victim does. 

*I am not speaking now of foreign capital lost to 
France,' continued Couture, ^ nor of the Frankfort lot- 
teries. The Convention passed a decree of death against 
those who hawked foreign lottery-tickets, and procureur- 
syndics used to traffick in them. So much for the 
sense of our legislator and his drivelling philanthropy. 
The encouragement given to savings banks is a piece 
of crass political folly. Suppose that things take a 
doubtful turn and people lose confidence, the Govern- 
ment will find that they have instituted a queue for 
money, like the queues outside the bakers' shops. So 
many savings banks, so many riots. Three street boys 
hoist a flag in some corner or other, and you have a 
revolution ready made. 

^ But this danger, however great it may be, seems to 
me less to be dreaded than the widespread demoralisa- 
tion. Savings banks are a means of inoculating the 
people, the classes least restrained by education or by 
reason from schemes that are tacitly criminal with the 
vices bred of self-interest. See what comes of philan- 
thropy ! 

^ A great politician ought to be without a conscience 
in abstract questions, or he is a bad steersman for a 
nation. An honest politician is a steam-engine with 

214 The Firm of Nucingen 

feelings, a pilot that would make love at the helm and 
let the ship go down. A prime minister who helps him- 
self to millions but makes France prosperous and great 
is preferable, is he not, to a public servant who ruins his 
countrv, even though he is buried at the public expense. 
Woula you hesitate between a Richelieu, a Mazarin, or 
a Potemkin, each with his hundreds of millions of francs, 
and a conscientious Robert Lindet that could make 
nothing out of assignats and national property, or one of 
the virtuous imbeciles who ruined Louis xvi. ? Go on, 

^ I will not go into the details of the speculation which 
we owe to Nucingen's financial genius. It would be the 
more inexpedient because the concern is still in existence 
and shares are quoted on the Bourse. The scheme was 
so convincing, there was such life in an enterprise sanc- 
tioned by royal letters patent, that though the shares issued 
at a thousand francs fell to three hundred, they rose to 
seven, and will reach par yet, after weathering the stormy 
years '27, '30, and '32. The financial crisis of 1827 
sent them down ; after the Revolution of July they fell 
flat; but there really is something in the affair. Nucingen 
simply could not invent a bad speculation. In short, as 
several banks of the highest standing have been mixed up 
in the affair, it would be unparliamentary to go further 
into detail The nominal capital amounted to ten 
millions ; the real capital to seven. Three millions 
were allotted to the founders and bankers that brought 
it out. Everything was done with a view to sending 
up the shares two hundred francs during the first six 
months by the payment of a sham dividend. Twenty 
per cent, on ten millions ! Du Tillet's interest in the 
concern amounted to five hundred thousand francs. In 
the stock-exchange slang of the day, this share of the 
spoils was a ^^sop in the pan." Nucingen, with his 
millions made by the aid of a lithographer s stone and a 
handful of pink paper, proposed to himself to operate 

The Firm of Nucingen 215 

certain nice little shares carefully hoarded in his private 
office till the time came for putting them on the market. 
The shareholder's money floated the concern, and paid 
for splendid business premises, so they began operations. 
And Nucingen held in reserve founders' shares in 
Heaven knows what coal and argentiferous lead-mines, 
also in a couple of canals ; the shares had been given 
to him for bringing out the concerns. All four were 
in working order, well got up and popular, for they 
paid good dividends. 

^Nucingen might, of course, count on getting the 
differences if the shares went up, but this formed no 
part of the Baron's schemes ; he left the shares at sea- 
level on the market to tempt the fishes. 

^ So he had massed his securities as Napoleon massed 
his troops, all with a view to suspending payment in the 
thick of the approaching crisis of 1826-27 which revolu- 
tionised Eiu'opean markets. If Nucingen had had his 
Prince of Wagram, he might have said, like Napoleon 
from the heights of Santon, ^ Make a careful survey of 
the situation ; on such and such a day, at such an 
hour funds will be poured in at such a spot." But in 
whom could he confide ? Du Tillet had no suspicion of 
his own complicity in Nucingen's plot j and the bold 
Baron had learned from his previous experiments in sus- 
pensions of payment that he must have some man whom 
he could trust to act at need as a lever upon the creditor. 
Nucingen had never a nephew, he dared not take a con- 
fidant; yet he must have a devoted and intelligent 
Claparon, a born diplomatist with a good manner, a man 
worthy of him, and fit to take office under government. 
Such connections are not made in a day nor yet in a 
year. By this time Rastignac had been so thoroughly 
entangled by Nucingen, that being, like the Prince de la 
Paix, equally beloved by the King and Queen of Spain, 
he fancied that he (Rastignac) had seciu'ed a very valuable 
dupe in Nucingen ! For a long while he had laughed at 

2i6 The Firm of Nucingen 

a man whose capacities he was unable to estimate; 
he ended in a sober, serious, and devout admiration of 
Nucingen, owning that Nucingen really had the power 
which he thoueht that he himself alone possessed. 

^ From Rastignac's introduction to society in Paris, he 
had been led to contenm it utterly. From the year 1820 
he thought, like the Baron, that honesty was a question 
of appearances; he looked upon the world as a mixture of 
corruption and rascality of every sort. If he admitted 
exceptions, he condemned the mass ; he put no belief in 
any virtue — men did right or wrong, as circumstances 
decided. His worldly wisdom was the work of a 
moment ; he learned his lesson at the summit of Pere 
Lachaise one day when he buried a poor, good man 
there ; it was his Delphine's £ither,who died deserted by 
his daughters and their husbands, a dupe of our society 
and of the truest affection. Rastignac then and there 
resolved to exploit this world, to wear full dress of virtue, 
honesty, and fine manners. He was empanoplied in 
selfishness. When the young scion of nobility discovered 
that Nucingen wore the same armour, he respected him 
much as some knight mounted upon a barb and arrayed 
in damascened steel would have respected an adversary 
equally well horsed and equipped at a tournament in the 
Middle Ages. But for the time he had grown effeminate 
amid the delights of Capua. The friendship of snch a 
woman as the Baronne de Nucingen is of a kind that 
sets a man abjuring egoism in all its forms. 

Delphine had been deceived once already ; in her first 
venture of the affections she came across a piece of Bir- 
mingham manu&cture, in the shape of the late lamented 
de Marsay ; and therefore she could not but feel a limit- 
less affection for a young provincial with all the provincial's 
articles of faith. Her tenderness reacted upon Rastignac. 
So by the time that Nucingen had put his wife's friend 
into the harness in which the exploiter always gets the 
exploited, he had reached the precise juncture when he 

Tlie Finn of SmdsBem S17 

(the Baion) iiiriftilpi a dnd flBpcHBB ct 
To Rasdgaac he mmdi i n d In fwitfiiiw ; Ik pointed 
toRasdgnac amcuBof ■Bkmg'icjsntiom.^ ^a 
sequence of Us wrianry, he vas njn irii to pSsf the 
part of uM tfe il ciair , The Bbcb indged it unsafe to 
commtuiicatc the whale of his pat to his oxiji^d 
o^boiator. RjsdgDJC qailc lidieved in loijri ii dmg 
disaster ; and the Banm afloved hins to htScvc finthcr 
that he (Rasdgnac) saved the shop. 

^ But niien there are so maoj threads in a dodniy iha^ 
are apt to be knots. Kasdgnac treasUed far Ddphine's 
monejr* He stipulatBd that Driphine nutst be indepen- 
dent and her estite separated boat her h«dand*S| swear- 
ing to himself that he would rqnj her bjr txdifif^ her 
fortune. As, however, Rastignar saod nothing of him- 
self Nucingen b^ged him to fake^ in the event of 
success^ twentjr-five shares of a thomand fiancs in the 
argentiferous lead-mines, and Eogcne took them — not to 
offend him ! Nucingen had pot Rastignar up to this 
the day before that evenii^ in die Rue Joubert when our 
friend counselled Mahrina to marry. A cold shiver nu 
through Rasdgnac at the sight of so many happy £oik in 
Paris going to and fro unconscious of the impending loss ; 
even so a young commander might shiver at the first 
sight of an army drawn up before a battle. He saw the 
d'Aiglemonts, the d'Aldriggers, and Beaudenord. Poor 
litde Isaure and Godefroid playing at love, what were 
they but Acis and Galatea under the rock which a 
hulkine Polyphemus was about to send down upon 

^ That monkey of a Bixiou has something almost like 
talent,' said Blondet. 

^ Oh ! so I am not maundering now ? ' asked Bixiou, 
enjoying his success as he looked round at his surprised 
auditors. — ^ For two months past,' he continued, ^ Code- 
fi-oid had given himself up to all the litde pleasures of 
preparation for the marriage. At such times men are 

21 8 The Firm of Nucingen 

like birds building nests in spring ; thev come and go, 
pick up their bits of straw, and fly off with them in their 
beaks to line the nest that is to hold a brood of young 
birds by and by. Isaure's bridegroom had taken a house 
in the Rue de la Plancher at a thousand crowns, a com- 
fortable little house neither too large nor too small, which 
suited them. Every morning he went round to take a 
look at the workmen and to superintend the painters. 
He had introduced " comfort " (the only good thing in 
England)— heating apparatus to maintain an even tem- 
perature all over the house ; fresh, soft colours, carefully 
chosen furniture, neither too showy nor too much in 
the fashion ; spring-blinds fitted to every window inside 
and out ; silver plate and new carriages. He had seen to 
the stables, coach-house, and harness-room, where Toby 
Joby Paddy floundered and fidgeted about like a marmot 
let loose, apparently rejoiced to know that there would 
be women about the place and a ^^ lady *' 1 This fervent 
passion of a man that sets up housekeeping, choosing 
clocks, going to visit his betrothed with his pockets full 
of patterns of stuffs, consulting her as to the bedroom 
furniture, going, coming, and trotting about, for love's 
sake, — ^all this, I say, is a spectacle in the highest degree 
calculated to rejoice the hearts of honest people, espe- 
cially tradespeople. And as nothing pleases folk better 
than the marriage of a good-looking young fellow of 
seven-and-twenty and a charming girl of nineteen that 
dances admirably well, Godefroid in his perplexity over 
the corbeille asked Mme. de Nucingen and Rastignac to 
breakfast with him and advise him on this all-important 
point. He hit likewise on the happy idea of asking his 
cousin d'Aiglemont and his wife to meet them, as well 
as Mme. de Serizy. Women of the world arc ready 
enough to join for once in an improvised breakfast- 
party at a bachelor's rooms.^ 

^ It is their way of playing truant,' put in Blondet« 
* Of course they went over the new house,' resumed 
Bixiou. ^ Married women relish these little expedi- 

The Firm of Nucingen 219 

tions as ogres relish warm flesh ; they feel young again 
with the young bliss, unspoiled as yet by fruition. 
Breakfast was served in Godefroid's sitting-roonni, decked 
out like a troop horse for a farewell to bachelor life. 
There were dainty little dishes such as wonnien love to 
devour, nibble at, and sip of a morning, when they are 
usually alarmindy hungry and horribly afraid to confess 
to it. It woulcf seem that a woman compromises herself 
by admitting that she is hungry. — "Why have you 
come alone?" inquired Godefroid when Rastignac 
appeared. — "Mme. de Nucingen is out of spirits; I will 
tell you all about it,'' answered Rastignac, with the air 
of a man whose temper has been tried. — ^^ A quarrel ? " 
hazarded Godefroid. — " No." — At four o'clock the 
women took flight for the Bois de Boulogne ; Rastignac 
stayed in the room and looked out of the window, 
fixing his melancholy gaze upon Toby Joby Paddy, who 
stood, his arms crossed in Napoleonic fashion, auda- 
ciously posted in front of Beaudenord's cab horse. The 
child could only control the animal with his shrill little 
voice, but the horse was afraid of Joby Toby. 

' " Well," began Godefroid, " what is the matter with 
you, my dear fellow ? You look gloomy and anxious ; 
your gaiety is forced. You are tormented by incom- 
plete happiness. It is wretched, and that is a fact, when 
one cannot marry the woman one loves at the mayor's 
office and the church." 

* ** Have you courage to hear what I have to say ? I 
wonder whether you will see how much a man must be 
attached to a friend if he can be guilty of such a breach 
of confidence as this for his sake." 

^ Something in Rastignac's voice stung like a lash of a 

* " What ? " asked Godefroid de Beaudenord, turning 

' " I was unhappy over your joy ; I had not the heart 
to keep such a secret to myself when I saw all these 
preparations, your happiness in bloom." 

220 The Firm of Nucingen 

^ ^^ Just say it out in three words \ ** 
*^ Swear to me on your honour that you will be as 
silent as the grave 

* ^^ As the erave,** repeated Beaudenord. 

^^'That if one of your nearest relatives were con- 
cerned in this secret, he should not know it." 

* ** No." 

^ *^ Very welL Nucingen started to-night for Brussels. 
He must file his schedule if he cannot arrange a settle- 
ment. This very morning Delphine petitioned for the 
separation of her estate. You may still save your 

*^How?" faltered Godefroid; the blood turned to 
ice in his veins. 

^*' Simply write to the Baron de Nucingen, ante- 
dating your letter a fortnight, and instruct him to 
invest all your capital in shares." — Rastignac suggested 
Claparon and Company, and continued — ^ You have a 
fortnight, a month, possibly three months, in which to 
realise and make something ; the shares are still going 
up " 

* ^ But d'Aiglemont, who was here at breakfast with 
us, has a million in Nucingen's bank." 

« << Look here ; I do not know whether there will be 
enough of these shares to cover it ; and besides, I am not 
his friend, I cannot betray Nucingen's confidence. You 
must not speak to d'Aiglemont. If you say a word, you 
must answer to me for the consequences." 

^ Godefroid stood stockstill for ten minutes. 

' ^^ Do you accept ? Yes or no ! " said the inexorable 

'Godefroid took up the pen, wrote at Rastignac's 
dictation, and signed his name. 

* " My poor cousin ! " he cried. 

' '^ Each for himself," said Rastignac. ** And there is 
one more settled ! " he added to himself as he left 

The Firm of Nucingen 221 

< While Rastignac was manoeuvring thus in Paris, 
imagine the state of things on the Bourse. A friend of 
mine, a provincial^a stupid creature, once asked me as we 
came past the Bourse between four and five in the after- 
noon what all that crowd of chatterers was doing, what 
they could possibly find to sav to each other, and why 
they were wandering to and fro when business in public 
securities was over for the day. "My friend," said I, 
^* they have made their meal, and now they are digesting 
it ; while they digest it, they gossip about their neigh- 
bours, or there would be no commercial security in 
Paris. Concerns are floated here, such and such a man 
— Palma, for instance, who is something the same here as 
Sinard at the Academie Royale des Sciences — Palma 
says, * Let the speculation be made ! * and the specula- 
tion is made."' 

* What a man that Hebrew is,' put in Blondet ; ^ he has 
not had a university education, but a universal education. 
And universal does not in his case mean superficial ; 
whatever he knows, he knows to the bottom. He has a 
genius, an intuitive faculty for business. He is the 
oracle of all the lynxes that rule the Paris market ; they 
will not touch an investment until Palma has looked 
into it. He looks solemn, he listens, ponders, and 
reflects ; his interlocutor thinks that after this considera- 
tion he has come round his man, till; Palma says, "This 
will not do for me." — The most extraordinary thing 
about Palma, to my mind, is the fact that he and Wer- 
brust were partners for ten years, and there was never 
the shadow of a disagreement between them.' 

*That is the way with the very strong or the very 
weak ; any two between the extremes fall out and lose 
no time in making enemies of each other,' said 

* Nucingen, you see, had neatly and skilfully put a 
little bombshell under the colonnades of the Bourse, and 
towards four o'clock in the afternoon it exploded.-— 

222 The Firm of Nucingen 

*^ Here is something serious ; have you heard the news r " 
asked du Tillet,drawing Werbrust into a comer. ^^Here is 
Nucingen gone off to Brussels, and his wife petitioning 
for the separation of her estate.' 

*^^ Are you and he in it together for a liquidation t** 
asked Werbrust, smiling. 

<"No foolery, Werbrust," said du TiUet. "You 
know the holders of his paper. Now, look here. There 
is business in it. Shares in this new concern of ours 
have gone up twenty per cent, already ; they will go up 
to five-and-twenty by the end of the quarter ; you know 
why. They are going to pay a splendid dividend." 

* " Sly dog," said Werbrust. '* CSct along with you } 
you are a devil with lone and sharp claws, and you have 
them deep in the butter. 

^"Just let me speak, or we shall not have time to 
operate. I hit on the idea as soon as I heard the news. 
I positively saw Mme. de Nucingen crying ; she is afiraid 
for her fortime." 

' " Poor little thing ! " said the old Alsacien Jew, with 
an ironical expression. ^^ Well ? " he added, as du Tillet 
was silent. 

< ^^ Well. At my place I have a thousand shares of a 
thousand francs in our concern ; Nucingen handed them 
over to me to put on the market, do you understand ? 
Good. Now let us buy up a million of Nucingen's paper 
at a discoimt of ten or twenty per cent., and we shall 
make a handsome percentage out of it. We shall be 
debtors and creditors both ; confusion will be worked ! 
But we must set about it carefully, or the holders may 
imagine that we are operating in Nucingen's interests. 

* Then Werbrust understood. He squeezed du Tillet*8 
hand with an expression such as a woman's face wears 
when she is playing her neighbour a trick. 

'Martin Falleix came up. — "Well, have you heard the 
news ? " he asked. " Nucingen has stopped pay- 

The Firm of Nucingen 223 

< ^ Pooh,** said Werbmst, ^ pray don't noise it about ; 
give those that hold his paper a chance.*' 

< ^^ What is the cause of the smash ; do you know ? " 
put in Claparon. 

^^^You know nothing about it," said du Tillet. 
^^ There isn't any smash. Payment will be made in 
full. Nucingen will start again ; I shall find him all 
the money he wants. I know the causes of the suspen- 
sion. He put all his capital into Mexican securities, 
and they are sending him metal in return ; old Spanish 
cannon cast in such an insane fashion that they melted 
down gold and bell-metal and church plate for it, and all 
the wreck of the Spanish dominion in the Indies. The 
specie is slow in coming, and the dear Baron is hard up. 
That is all." 

* " It is a fact," said Werbrust ; " I am taking his paper 
myself at twenty per cent, discount." 

^ The news spread swift as fire in a straw rick. The 
most contradictory reports got about. But such con- 
fidence was felt in the firm after the two previous 
suspensions, that every one stuck to Nucingen's paper. 
^^ Palma must lend us a hand," said Werbrust. 

^ Now Palma was the Kellers' oracle, and the Kellers 
were brimful of Nucingen's paper. A hint from 
Palma would be enough. Werbrust arranged with 
Palma, and he rang the alarm bell. There was a panic 
next day on the Bourse. The Kellers, acting on 
Palma's advice, let go Nucingen's paper at ten per cent, 
of loss; they set the example on 'Change, for they 
were supposed to know very well what they were about. 
Taillefer followed up with three hundred thousand francs 
at a discount of twenty per cent., and Martin Falleix 
with two hundred thousand at fifteen. Gigonnet saw 
what was going on. He helped to spread the panic, 
with a view to buying up Nucingen's paper himself and 
making a commission of two or three per cent, out of 

224 The Firm of Nudngen 

^ In a comer of the Bourse he came upon poorMatifiit^ 
who had three hundred thousand francs in Nudngen'f 
bank. Mati&t, ehastlj and haggard, beheld the terrible 
Gigonnet, the UU-discounter of his old quarter, coming 
up to worry him. He shuddered in spite of himself. 

*^^ Things are looking bad. There is a crisis on 
hand. Nucingen is compounding with his creditors. 
But this does not interest you, D^dj Matiiat ; you are 
out of business.'* 

* ^^ Oh, well, vou are mistaken, Gigonnet; I am in for 
three hundred tnousand francs. I meant to speculate in 
Spanish bonds." 

^ ^^ Then you have saved your money. Spanish bonds 
would have swept everything away ; whereas I am pre- 
pared to offer you something like nfty per cent, for your 
account with Nucingen.** 

^^^I would rather wait for the composition," said 
Matifat ; *^ I never knew a banker yet that paid less 
than fifty per cent. Ah, if it were only a matter of ten 
per cent, of loss ** added the retirea man of drugs. 

* ** Well, will you take fifteen ? ** asked Gigonnet. 

' << You are very keen about it, it seems to me,** said 

* « Good-night." 

« " WiU you take twelve ? ** 

^ *^ Done,** said Gigonnet 

^ Before night two millions had been bought up in 
the names of the three chance-united confederates, and 
posted by du Tillet to the debit side of Nucingen's 
account. Next day they drew their premium. 

*The dainty little old Baroness d*Aldrigger was at 
breakfast with her two daughters and Godefroid, when 
Rastignac came in with a diplomatic air to steer the 
conversation on the financial crins. The Baron de 
Nucingen felt a lively regard for the d*Aldrigger family; 
he was prepared, if things went amiss, to cover tne 
Baroness's account with his best securities, to wit, some 

The Firm of Nucingen 225 

shares in the argentiferous lead-mines, but the application 
must come from the lady. 

*«Poor Nucingen!*^ said the Baroness. «<What 
can have become of him ? " 

* ** He is in Belgium. His wife is petitioning for a 
separation of her property; but he has gone to see if he 
can arrange with some bankers to see him through." 

* " Dear me ! That reminds me of my poor husband ! 
Dear M. de Rastignac, how you must feel this, so attached 
as you are to the house ! " 

'"If all the indifferent are covered, his personal 
friends will be rewarded later on. He will pull through; 
he is a clever man." 

*"An honest man, above all things,'* said the 

* A month later, Nucingen met all his liabilities, with 
9i no formalities beyond the letters by which creditors 
b signified the investments which they preferred to take 

in exchange for their capital ; and with no action on the 
part of other banks beyond registering the transfer of 
Nucingen's paper for the investments in favour. 

•While du TiUet, Werbrust, Claparon, Gigonnet, 
and others that thought themselves clever were fetching 
in Nucingen's paper from abroad with a premium of one 
per cent. — ^for it was still worth their while to exchange 
it for securities in a rising market — there was all the 
more talk on the Bourse, because there was nothing 
now to fear. They babbled over Nucingen ; he was 
discussed and judged ; they even slandered him. His 
luxurious life, his enterprises! When a man has so 
much on his hands, he overreaches himself, and so forth, 
and so forth. 

* The talk was at its height, when several people were 
greatly astonished to receive letters from Geneva, Basel, 
Milan, Naples, Genoa, Marseilles, and London, in which 
their correspondents, previously advised of the bilure, 
informed them that somebody was oflFering one per cent. 


226 The Firm of Nucingen 

for Nucingen's paper I ^ There is something up,^ said 
the lynxes of the Bourse. 

^ The Court meanwhile had granted the application 
for Mme. de Nucingen*s separation as to her estate, and 
the question became still more complicated. The news- 
papers announced the return of M. le Baron de Nucingen 
from a journey to Belgium ; he had been arranging, it 
was said, with a well-known Belgian firm to resume the 
working of some coal-pits in the Bois de Bossut. The 
Baron himself appeared on the Bourse, and never even 
took the trouble to contradict the slanders circulating 
against him. He scorned to reply through the press; 
he simply bought a splendid estate just outside Paris for 
two millions of francs. Six weeks afterwards, the 
Bordeaux shipping intelligence announced that two 
vessels with cargoes of bullion to the amount of seven 
millions, consigned to the firm of Nucingen, were lying 
in the river. 

* Then it was plain to Palma, Werbrust, and du Tillet 
that the trick had been played. Nobody else was any 
the wiser. The three scholars studied the means by 
which the great bubble had been created, saw that it 
had been preparing for eleven months, and pronounced 
Nucingen the greatest financier in Europe. 

^ Rastignac understood nothing of all this, but he had 
the four hundred thousand francs which Nucingen had 
allowed him to shear from the Parisian sheep, and he 
portioned his sisters. D'Aiglemont, at a hint firom his 
cousin Beaudenordy besought Rastignac to accept ten 
per cent, upon his million if he would undertake to 
convert it into shares in a canal which is still to make, 
for Nucingen worked things with the Government to 
such purpose that the concessionaries find it to their 
interest not to finish their scheme. Charles Grandet im- 
plored Delphine's lover to use his interest to secure shares 
for him in exchange for his cash. And altogether Rastignac 
played the part of Law for ten days; he had the prettiest 

The Finn of Nocii^eii 227 

dacheacs in Fnnoe pn^ing him to ilkit shares to them, 
and to-dsf the yoong man rcrj Ukdy has an income of 
forty thouand ufTcs, derired in the first instance from 
the argentiferoos kad-mincs.' 

^ If cYcrj one was better oflF, who can have lost ? ' 
asked Finot. 

^ Hear the condusioii,' rejoined Bixk>u. * The Mar- 
quis d'Aiglemont and Bcaudenord (I put them forward 
as two examples out of many) kept their alloued shares^ 
enticed by the so-called dividend that fell due a few 
months afterwards. They had another three per cent* 
on their capital, they sang Nucingen's praises^ and took 
his part at a time when everybody suspected that he was 
going bankrupt. Godefroid married his beloved Isaure 
and took shares in the mines to the value of a hundred 
thousand francs. The Nucingens gave a ball even more 
q;>lendid than people expected of them on the occasion of 
die wedding; Delphine's present to the bride was a 
charming set of rubies. Isaure danced, a happy wife, a 
girl no longer. The little Baroness was more than ever 
a Shepherdess of the Alps. The ball was at its height 
when Malvina, the Andalouse of Musset's poem, hcnird 
du Tillet's voice drily advising her to take Desroches. 
Desroches, warmed to the right degree by Rastignac and 
Nucingen, tried to come to an understanding financially i 
but at the first hint of shares in the mines for the bride*s 
portion, he broke off and went back to the Matifats in 
the Rue du Cherche-Midi, only to find the accursed 
canal shares which Gigonnet had foisted on Matifat in 
lieu of cash. 

< They had not long to wait for the crash. The firm 
of Claparon did business on too large a scale, the capital 
was locked up, the concern ceased to serve its purposes, 
or to pay dividends, though the speculations were sound. 
These misfortunes coincided with the events of iSiy* 
In 1829 it was too well known that Claparon was a 
man of straw set up by the two giants ; he fell from his 

228 The Firm of Nucingen 

pedestal. Shares that had fetched twelve hundred and 
fifty francs fell to four hundred, though intrinsically 
they were worth six. Nucingen, knowing their value, 
boueht them up at four. 

* Meanwhile the little Baroness d'Aldrigger had sold 
out of the mines that paid no dividends, and Godefroid 
had reinvested the money belonging to his wife and her 
mother in Claparon's concern. Debts compelled them 
to realise when the shares were at their lowest, so that 
of seven hundred thousand francs only two hundred 
thousand remained. They made a clearance, and all 
that was left was prudently invested in the three per 
cents, at seventy-five. Godefroid, the sometime gay and 
careless bachelor who had lived without taking thought 
all his life long, found himself saddled with a little goose 
of a wife totally unfitted to bear adversity (indeed, 
before six months were over, he had witnessed the 
anserine transformation of his beloved), to say nothing 
of a mother-in-law whose mind ran on pretty dresses 
while she had not bread to eat. The two families must 
live together to live at all. It was only by stirring up 
all his considerably chilled interest that Godefroid got a 
post in the audit department. His friends? — They were 
out of town. His relatives ? — All astonishment and 
promises. *^ What ! my dear boy ! Oh ! count upon 
me ! Poor fellow ! ^ and Beaudenord was clean for- 
gotten fifteen minutes afterwards. He owed his place 
to Nucingen and de Vandenesse. 

^ And to-day these so estimable and unfortunate people 
are living on a third floor (not counting the entre-sol) 
in the Rue du Mont Thabor. Malvina, the Adolphus's 
pearl of a granddaughter, has not a farthing. She gives 
music-lessons, not to be a burden upon her brother-in-law. 
You may see a tall, dark, thin, withered woman, like 
a mummy escaped from Passalacqua's, about afoot 
through the streets of Paris. In 1830 Beaudenord lost 
his situation just as his wife presented him with a fourth 

The Firm of Nucingen 229 

child. A family of eight and two servants ( Wirth and 
his wife) and an income of eight thousand livres. And 
at this moment the mines are paying so weU, that an 
original share of a thousand francs brings in a dividend 
of cent, per cent. 

Rastignac and Mme. de Nucingen bought the shares 
sold by the Baroness and Godefroid. The Revolution 
made a peer of France of Nucingen and a Grand Officer 
of the Legion of Honour. He has not stopped payment 
since 1830, but still I hear that he has something like 
seventeen millions. He put faith in the Ordinances of 
July, sold out of all his investments, and boldly put his 
money into the funds when the three per cents, stood at 
forty-five. He persuaded the Tuileries that this was 
done out of devotion, and about the same time he and 
du Tillet between them swallowed down three millions 
belonging to that great scamp Philippe Bridau. 

^ Quite lately our Baron was walking along the Rue 
de Rivoli on his way to the Bois when he met the 
Baroness d'Aldrigger under the colonnade. The little 
old lady wore a tiny green bonnet with a rose-coloured 
lining, a flowered gown, and a mantilla ; altogether, she 
was more than ever the Shepherdess of the Alps. She 
could no more be made to understand the causes of her 
poverty than the sources of her wealth. As she went 
along, leaning upon poor Malvina, that model of heroic 
devotion, she seemed to be the young girl and Malvina 
the old mother. Wirth followed them, carrying an 

* " Dere are beoples whose vordune I vound it imbos- 
sible to make," said the Baron, addressing his companion 
(M. Cointet, a cabinet minister). ^^Now dot de 
baroxysm ofF brincibles haf bassed ofF, chust reinshtate 
dot boor Peautenord." 

* So Beaudenord went back to his desk, thanks to . 
Nucingen's good offices; and the d'Aldriggers extol 
Nucingen as a hero of friendship, for he always sends 

230 The Firm of Nucingen 

the little Shepherdess of the Alps and her daughters 
invitations to his balls. No creature whatsoever can be 
made to understand that the Baron yonder three times 
did his best to plunder the public without breaking the 
letter of the law, and enriched people in spite of himself. 
No one has a word to say against him. If anybody 
should suggest that a bie capitalist often is another word 
for a cut-throat, it would be a most egregious calumny. 
If stocks rise and fidi, if property improves and depreciates, 
the fluctuations of the market are caused by a common 
movement, a something in the air, a tide in the affairs of 
men subject like other tides to lunar influences. The 
great Arago is much to blame for giving us no scien- 
tific theory to account for this important phenomenon. 
The only outcome of all this is an axiom which I 
have never seen anywhere in print ' 

* And that is ? * 

* The debtor is more than a match for the creditor.' 

* Oh ! ' said Blondet. * For my own part, all that we 
have been saying seems to me to be a paraphrase of the 
epigram in which Montesquieu summed up PEsprit 
des Lois^ 

* What ? * said Finot. 

* Laws are like spiders' webs; the big flies get through, 
while the little ones are caught.' 

*Then, what are you for r* asked Finot. 

* For absolute government, the only kind of govern- 
ment under which enterprises against the spirit of the 
law can be put down. Yes. Arbitrary rule is the 
salvation of a country when it comes to the support of 
justice, for the right of mercy is strictly one-sided. The 
king can pardon a fraudulent bankrupt ; he cannot do 
anything for the victims. The letter of the law is &tal 
to modern society.* 

^ Just get that into the electors' heads ! ' said Bixiou. 

^ Some one has undertaken to do it.^ 


Hie Firm of Nucingen 231 

^Time. As the Bishop of Leon said, ^Liberty is 
ancient, but kingship is eternal"; any nation in its 
right mind returns to monarchical government in one 
form or another.' 

*I say, there was somebody next door,' said Finot, 
hearing us rise to go. 

* There always is somebody next door,' retorted 
Bixiou. But he must have been drunk« 

pAftit, November 1857. 


I ONCE used to live in a little street which probably is 
not known to you — the Rue de Lesdiguieres. It is a 
turning out of the Rue Saint-Antoine, beginning just 
opposite a fountain near the Place de la Bastille^ and 
ending in the Rue de la Cerisaie. Love of knowledge 
stranded me in a garret ; my nights I spent in work, my 
days in reading at the Bibhotheque d'Orleans, dose by. 
I lived frugally, I had accepted the conditions of the 
monastic life, necessary conditions for every worker, 
scarcely permitting myself a walk along the Boulevard 
Bourdon when the weather was fine. One passion only 
had power to draw me from my studies ; and yet, what 
was that passion but a study of another kind ? I used to 
watch the manners and customs of the Faubourg, its in- 
habitants, and their characteristics. As I dressed no 
better than a working man, and cared nothing for 
appearances, I did not put them on their guard ; I could 
join a group and look on while they drove bargains or 
wrangled among themselves on their way home from 
work. Even then observation had come to be an in- 
stinct with me; a Acuity of penetrating to the soul 
without neglecting the body; or rather, a power of 
grasping external details so thoroughly that they never 
detained me for a moment, and at once I passed beyond 
and through them. I could enter into the life of the 
human creatures whom I watched, just as the dervish in 
the Arabian Nights could pass into any soul or body after 
pronouncing a certain formula. 


Facino Gme 233 

If I met a working man and his wife in the streets be- 
tween eleven o'clock and midnight on their way home 
from the Ambigu Comique, I used to amuse myself by 
following them from the Boulevard du Pont aux Choux 
to the Boulevard Beaumarchais. The good folk would 
begin by talking about the play ; then from one thing to 
another they would come to their own affairs, and the 
mother would walk on and on, heedless of complaints or 
question from the little one that dragged at her hand, 
while she and her husband reckoned up the wages to be 
paid on the morrow, and spent the money in a score of 
different wajrs. Then came domestic details, lamentations 
over the excessive deamess of potatoes, or the length of 
the winter and the high price of block fuel, together 
with forcible representations of amounts owing to the 
baker, ending in an acrimonious dispute, in the course of 
which such couples reveal their characters in picturesque 
language. As I listened, I could make their lives mine, 
I felt their rags on my back, I walked with their gaping 
shoes on my feet; their cravings, their needs, had all 
passed into my soul, or my soul had passed into theirs. 
It was the dream of a waking man. I waxed hot with 
them over the foreman's tyranny, or the bad customers 
that made them call again and again for payment. 

To come out of my own ways of life, to be another 
than myself through a kind of intoxication of the intel- 
lectual faculties, and to play this game at will, such was 
my recreation. Whence comes the gift ? Is it a kind 
of second sight ? Is it one of those powers which when 
abused end in madness ? I have never tried to discover 
its source ; I possess it, I use it, that is all. But this it 
behoves you to know, that in those days I began to 
resolve the heterogeneous mass known as the People into 
its elements, and to evaluate its good and bad qualities. 
Even then I realised the possibilities of my suburb, that 
hotbed of revolution in which heroes, inventors, and 
practical men of science, rogues and scoundrels, virtues 

234 Facino Gme 

mnd Ticcs^ were all packed together by poverty, stifled 
by necessity, drowned in drink, and consumed by ardent 

You would not imagine how many adventures, how 
many tragedies, lie buried away out of sight in that 
Dolorous City ; how much horror and beauty lurks 
there. No imagination can reach the Truth, no one 
can go down into that city to make discoveries ; for one 
must needs descend too low into its depths to see the 
wonderful scenes of tragedy or comedy enacted there, 
the masterpieces brought forth by chance. 

I do not know how it is that I have kept the following 
story so long untold. It is one of the curious things that 
stop in the bag from which Memory draws out stories at 
haphazard, like numbers in a lottery. There are plentv 
of tales just as strange and just as well hidden still 
left; but some day, you may be sure, their turn will 

One day my charwoman, a working man's wife, came 
to beg me to honour her sister's wedding with my 
presence. If jrou are to realise what this wedding was 
like, you must know that I paid mv charwoman, poor 
creature, four francs a month ; for which sum she came 
every morning to make my bed, clean my shoes, brush 
my clothes, sweep the room, and make ready my break- 
fast, before going to her day's work of turning the handle 
of a machine, at which hard drudgery she earned five- 
pence. Her husband, a cabinetmaker, made four francs 
a day at his trade ; but as they had three children, it was 
all that they could do to gain an honest living. Yet I 
have never met with more sterling honesty than in this 
man and his wife. For five years after I left the quarter. 
Mere Vaillant used to come on my birthday with a 
bunch of flowers and some oranges for me — she that had 
never a sixpence to put by ! Want had drawn us 
together. I never could give her more than a ten-franc 

Facino Cane 235 

piece, and often I had to borrow the money for the 
occasion. This will perhaps explain my promise to go 
to the wedding ; I hoped to efface myself in these poor 
people's merry-making. 

The banquet and the ball were given on a first floor 
above a wineshop in the Rue de Charenton. It was a 
large room, lighted by oil lamps with tin reflectors. A 
row of wooden benches ran round the walls, which were 
black with grime to the height of the tables. Here 
some eighty persons, all in their Sunday best, tricked out 
with ribbons and bunches of flowers, all of them on 
pleasure bent, were dancing away with heated visages as 
if the world were about to come to an end. Bride and 
bridegroom exchanged salutes to the general satis&ction, 
amid a chorus of fecetious ^ Oh, ohsT' and ^ Ah, ahs ! ' 
less really indecent than the furtive glances of young 
girls that have been well brought up. There was some- 
thing indescribably infectious about the rough, homely 
enjoyment in all countenances. 

But neither the faces, nor the wedding, nor the 
wedding-guests have anything to do with my story. 
Simply bear them in mind as the odd setting to it. Try 
to realise the scene, the shabby red-painted wineshop, the 
smell of wine, the yells of merriment ; try to feel that 
YOU are really in the faubourg, among old people, work- 
ing men and poor women giving themselves up to a 
night's enjoyment. 

The band consisted of a fiddle, a clarionet, and a 
flageolet from the Blind Asylum. The three wctt paid 
seven francs in a lump sum for the night. For the 
money, they gave us, not Beethoven certainly, nor yet 
Rossini ; they played as they had the will and the tkiU | 
and every one in the room (with charming < f 
feeling) refrained from finding fault. The m 
such a brutal assault on the drum of my ear, t 
first glance round the room my eyes fell at 
blind trio, and the sight of their uniform 

236 Facino Cane 

the first to indulgence. As the artists stood in a window 
recess, it was difficult to distinguish their faces except at 
close quarters, and I kept away at first; but when I 
came nearer (I hardly know why) I thought of nothing 
else ; the wedding party and the music ceased to exist, 
my curiosity was roused to the highest pitch, for my 
soul passed into the body of the clarionet player. 

The fiddle and the flageolet were neither of them 
interesting ; their faces were of the ordinary type among 
the blind — earnest, attentive, and ^rave. Not so the 
clarionet player ; any artist or philosopher must have 
come to a stop at the sight of him. 

Picture to yourself a plaster mask of Dante in the red 
lamplight, with a forest of silver-white hair above the 
brows. Blindness intensified the expression of bitterness 
and sorrow in that grand face of his ; the dead eyes were 
lighted up, as it were, by a thought within that broke 
forth like a burning flame, lit by one sole insatiable desire, 
written large in vigorous characters upon an arching brow 
scored across with as many lines as an old stone wall. 

The old man was playing at random, without the 
slightest regard for time or tune. His fingers travelled 
mechanically over the worn keys of his instrument ; he 
did not trouble himself over a false note now and again 
(a canardy in the language of the orchestra), neither did 
the dancers, nor, for that matter, did my old Italian's 
acolytes ; for I had made up my mind that he must be 
an Italian, and an Italian he was. There was something 
great, something too of the despot about this old Homer 
bearing within him an Odyssey doomed to oblivion. The 
greatness was so real that it triumphed over his abject 
position ; the despotism so much a part of him, that it 
rose above his poverty. 

There are violent passions which drive a man to good or 
evil, making of him a hero or a convict ; of these there 
was not one that had feiled to leave its traces on the 
grandly-hewn, lividly Italian face. You trembled lest a 

Facino Cane 237 

flash of thought should suddenly light up the deep sight- 
less hollows under the grizzled brows, as you might fear 
to see brigands with torches and poniards in the mouth 
of a cavern. You felt that there was a lion in that cage 
of flesh, a lion spent with useless raging against iron bars. 
The fires of despair had burned themselves out into 
ashes, the lava had cooled ; but the tracks of the flames, 
the wreckage, and a little smoke remained to bear 
witness to the violence of the eruption, the ravages of 
the fire. These images crowded up at the sight of the 
clarionet player, till the thoughts now grown cold in 
his face burned hot within my soul. 

The fiddle and the flageolet took a deep interest in bottles 
and glasses ; at the end of a country-dance, they hung 
their instruments from a button on their reddish-coloured 
coats, and stretched out their hands to a little table set in 
the window recess to hold their liquor supply. Each 
time they did so they held out a full glass to the Italian, 
who could not reach it for himself because he sat in front 
of the table, and each time the Italian thanked them with 
a friendly nod. All their movements were made with 
the precision which always amazes you so much at the 
Blind Asylum. You could almost think that they can 
see. I came nearer to listen ; but when I stood beside 
them, they evidently guessed I was not a working man, 
and kept themselves to themselves. 

* What part of the world do you come from, you that 
are playing the clarionet ? * 

^ From Venice,' he said, with a trace of Italian accent. 

' Have you always been blind, or did it come on 
afterwards ? * 

^ Afterwards,' he answered quickly. * A cursed guf 

* Venice is a fine city; I have always had a fancy to 

The old man's face lighted up, the wrinkles began 
work, he was violently excited. 

238 Facino Guie 

' If I went with you, you would not lose your time,' 
be said. 

* Don't talk about Venice to our Doge,' put in the 
fiddle, *or you will start him oflF, and he has stowed 
away a couple of bottles as it is — has the prince ! ' 

* Come, strike up, Daddy Canard ! ' added the flageo- 
let, and the three began to play. But while they 
executed the four figures of a square dance, the Vene- 
tian was scenting my thoughts ; he guessed the great 
interest I felt in him. The dreary, dispirited look died 
out of his fixe, some mysterious hope brightened his 
features and slid like a blue flame over his wrinkles. 
He smiled and wiped his brow, that fearless, terrible 
brow of his, and at length grew gay like a man mounted 
on his hobby. 

* How old are you ? ' I asked. 

* Eightv-two.' 

* How long have you been blind ? ' 

* For very nearly fifty years,' he said, and there was 
that in his tone which told me that his regret was for 
something more than his lost sight, for great power of 
which he had been robbed. 

* Then why do they call you " the Doge " ? ' I asked. 
^Oh, it is a joke. I am a Venetian noble, and I 

might have been a doge like any one else.' 

* What is your name ? ' 

* Here^ in Paris, I am Pere Canet,' he said. * It was 
the only way of spelling my name on the register. But 
in Italy I am Marco Facino Cane, Prince of Varese.* 

* What, are you descended from the great condottiere 
Facino Cane, whose lands won by the sword were taken 
by the Dukes of Milan ? ' 

^ k vero^ returned he. *His son's life was not safe 
under the Visconti ; he fled to Venice, and his name was 
inscribed on the Golden Book. And now neither Cane 
nor Golden Book are in existence.' His gesture startled 
me ; it told of patriotism extinguished and weariness of 

Fadno Cane 239 

* But if you were once a Venetian senator, you must 
have been a wealthy man. How did you lose your 
fortune ? ' 

* In evil days.' 

He waved away the glass of wine handed to him by 
the flageolet, and bowed his head. He had no heart to 
drink. These details were not calculated to extinguish 
my curiosity. 

As the three ground out the music of the square dance, 
I gazed at the old Venetian noble, thinking thoughts 
that set a young man's mind aiire at the age of twenty. 
I saw Venice and the Adriatic ; I saw her ruin in 
the ruin of the &ce before me. I walked to and fro in 
that citv, so beloved of her citizens ; I went from the 
Rialto Bridge, along the Grand Canal, and from the Riva 
degli Schiavoni to the Lido, returning to St. Mark's, 
that cathedral so unlike all others in its sublimity. I 
looked up at the windows of the Casa Doro, each with 
its diflFerent sculptured ornaments ; I saw old palaces 
rich in marbles, saw all the wonders which a student 
beholds with the more sympathetic eyes because visible 
things take their colour of his fancv, and the sight of 
realities cannot rob him of the glory of his dreams. 
Then I traced back a course of life for this latest scion 
of a race of condottieri, tracking down his misfortunes, 
looking for the reasons of the deep moral and physical 
degra£tion out of which the lately revived sparks of 
greatness and nobility shone so much the more brightly. 
My ideas, no doubt, were passing through his mind, for 
all processes of thought-communications are far more 
swift, I think, in blind people, because their blindness 
compels them to concentrate their attention. I had not 
long to wait for proof that we were in sympathy in this 
way. Facino Cane left oflF playing, and came up to me, 
^ Let us go out ! ' he said ; his tones thrilled through me 
like an electric shock. I gave him my arm, and we went. 

Outside in the street he said, ^ Will you take me back 

240 Ftcino Cane 

to Venice ? will 70U be my guide ? WiU jou pot fiutli 
in me i You shall be ncher than ten of the richest 
houses in Amsterdam or London, richer than Rotfasdiild ; 
in short, you shall have the fiibulous wealth of the 
AraUsn fhghts* 

The man was mad, I thought ; but in his voice there 
was a potent something which I obeyed. I allowed him 
to lead, and he went in the direction of the Fosses de h 
Bastille, as if he could see ; walking till he reached a 
lonely spot down by the river, just where the bridge has 
since been built at the junction of the Canal Saint-Mar- 
tin and the Seine. Here he sat down on a stone, and 
I, sitting opposite to him, saw the old man's hair gleaming 
like threads of silver in the moonlight. Tlie stillness 
was scarcely troubled by the sound of the hx^oS thunder 
of traffic along the boulevards ; the clear night air and 
everything about us combined to make a strangely unreal 

* You talk of millions to a young man,' I began, ^and 
do you think that he will shrink from enduring any 
number of hardships to gain them ? Are you not laugh* 
ing at me ? ' 

*May I die unshriven,' he cried vehemently, * if all 
that I am about to tell you is not true. I was one-and- 
twenty years old, like you at this moment. I was rich, 
I was handsome, and a noble by birth. I began with the 
first madness of all — ^with Love. I loved as no one can 
love nowaday. I have hidden myself in a chest, at the 
risk of a dagger thrust, for nothing more than the pro- 
mise of a kiss. To die for Her — ^it seemed to me to be a 
whole life in itself. In 1 760 1 fell in love with a lady of the 
Vendramin family ; she was eighteen years oId,and married 
to a Sagredo, one of the richest senators, a man of thirty, 
madlv in love with his wife. My mistress and I were 
guiltless as cherubs when the sposo caught us together 
talking of love. He was armed, I was not, but he missed 
me 'y I sprang upon him and killed him with my two 

Facino Cane 241 

hands, wringing his neck as if he had been a chicktn. 
I wanted Bianca to fly with me ; but she would not* 
That is the way with women ! So I went alone. I w»% 
condemned to death, and my property was confiscated 
and made over to my next-of-kin ; but I had carried off 
my diamonds, five of Titian's pictures taken down from 
their frames and rolled up, and all my gold. 

* I went to Milan, no one molested me, my affair in 
nowise interested the State. — One small obiervation 
before I go further,' he continued, after a pause, ^ whether 
it is true or no that the mother's fimcies at the time of 
conception or in the months before birth can influence 
her child, this much is certain, my mother durinar her 
pregnancy had a passion for gold, and I am the victim ^A 
a monomania, of a craving for gold which mmt be 
gratified. Gold is so much a necessity of life fr^r me, 
that I have never been without it ; I must have gold to 
toy with and finger. As a ywuig nan I alwaJ^ wore 
jcwdlcry, and carried two or three hundred duckt^ 9Mat 
with me wherever I went.' 

He drew a couple of gold cou» free: hisi y^^iux »vd 
showed them to me as he ipoke. 

*I can teil by issdnct when gf^ s ::ear. 3/Ir^ as; I 
am, I stop before rhe jeweLers' ihop v-^^;qrc T'^at 
nwrion wb the r±z, oi :z/ei I Zf»k to iaaabiitigr v, vopf 
with gouL I was nac a chear, I was dieace^t, I rvx^ieA 
mjwdL I jcsc all 317 jbrrase. Tkea :ae >»i^a^ r<> 
»e Biarra ccxe sore z/rmemd ae iike a ttssopt. I 
Stale back zs^ Vaict u:d ixcd &er a^auu Fv ihr 
nwnriw I was iiacipy ; she out se » aer iMose »u( 
fisd me. I tuM^z rims Jdiciiaaty 90* xxngii snr 

e ia Izatj can xei :2ac. He ?ki»ea( 
js, axxtf urprse^ jis a yA er :if 'sei, 
r vi 3127 lut^s wtoc a x^tir »r xk x 
I 2i<i ICC icll JLta vaxrj^K^ isor I 

242 Facino Cane 

^ That adventure broke my luck. I hare never found 
another Bianca; I have known great pleasures; but 
among the most celebrated women of the court of Louis 
XV. I never found my beloved Venetian's charm, her love, 
her great qualities. 

^ The Provveditore called his servants, the palace was 
surrounded and entered ; I fought for my life that I 
might die beneath Bianca's eyes ; Bianca helped me to 
kill the Provveditore. Once before she had refused 
flight with me ; but after six months of happiness she 
wished only to die with me, and received several thrusts. 
I was entangled in a great cloak that they flung 
over me, carried down to a gondola, and hurried to the 
Pozzi dungeons. I was twenty-two years old ; I gripped 
the hilt of my broken sword so hard, that they could 
only have taken it from me by cutting oflF my hand at 
the wrist. A curious chance, or rather the instinct of 
self-preservation, led me to hide the fragment of the 
blade in a corner of my cell, as if it might still be of use. 
They tended me ; none of my wounds were serious. At 
two-and-twenty one can recover from anything. I was 
to lose my head on the scaflfold. I shammed illness to 
gain time. It seemed to me that the canal lay just out- 
side my cell. I thought to make mv escape by boring a 
hole through the wall and swimming for my life. I 
based my hopes on the following reasons. 

^ Every time that the gaoler came with my food, there 
was light enough to read directions written on the walls — 
" Side of the Palace,*' « Side of the Canal," « Side of the 
Vaults." At last I saw a design in this, but I did not 
trouble myself much about the meaning of it ; the 
actual incomplete condition of the Ducal Palace accounted 
for it. The longing to regain my freedom gave me 
something like genius. Groping about with my fingers^ 
I spelt out an Arabic inscription on the wsill. The 
author of the work informed those to come after him 
that he had loosened two stones in the lowest course of 

Facino Cane 243 

masonry and hollowed out eleven feet beyond under- 
ground. As he went on with his excavations, it became 
necessary to spread the fragments of stone and mortar 
over the floor of his cell. But even if gaolers and in- 
quisitors had not felt sure that the structure of the build- 
ings was such that no watch was needed below, the 
level of the Pozzi dungeons being several steps below the 
threshold, it was possible gradually to raise the earthen 
floor without exciting the warder's suspicions. 

* The tremendous labour had profited nothing — ^nothing 
at least to him that began it. The very fact that it was 
left unfinished told of the unknown worker's death. 
Unless his devoted toil was to be wasted for ever, his 
successor must have some knowledge of Arabic, but I 
had studied Oriental languages at the Armenian Convent. 
A few words written on the back of the stone recorded 
the unhappy man's fate ; he had fallen a victim to his 
great possessions ; Venice had coveted his wealth and 
seized upon it. A whole month went by before I 
obtained any result ; but whenever I felt my strength 
failing as I worked, I heard the chink of gold, I saw gold 
spread before me, I was dazzled by diamonds. — Ah ! 

^One night my blunted steel struck on wood. I 
whetted the fragment of my blade and cut a hole ; I 
crept on my belly like a serpent ; I worked naked and 
mole-fashion, my hands in front of me, using the stone 
itself to gain a purchase. I was to appear before my 
judges in two days' time, I made a final effort, and that 
night I bored through the wood and felt that there was 
space beyond. 

' Judge of my surprise when I applied my eye to the 
hole. I was in the ceiling of a vault, heaps of gold were 
dimly visible in the &int light. The Doge himself and 
one of the Ten stood below ; I could hear their voices and 
suflicient of their talk to know that this was the Secret 
Treasury of the Republic, full of the gifts of Doges and 

244 Facino Cane 

reserves of booty called the Tithe of Venice from the 
spoils of military expeditions. I was saved ! 

^ When the gaoler came I proposed that he should help 
me to escape and fly with me, and that we should take 
with us as much as we could carry. There was no reason 
for hesitation ; he agreed. Vessels were about to sail for 
the Lrevant. All possible precautions were taken. Bianqi 
furthered the schemes which I suggested to my accom- 
plice. It was arranged that Bianca should only rejoin us 
in Smyrna for fear of exciting suspicion. In a single 
night the hole was enlarged, and we dropped down into 
the Secret Treasury of Venice. 

^ What a night that was ! Four great casks full of 
gold stood there. In the outer room silver pieces were 
piled in heaps, leaving^ a gangway between by which to 
cross the chamber. Banks of silver coins surrounded the 
walls to the height of five feet. 

* I thought the fi;aoler would go mad. He sang and 
laughed and danced and capered among the gold, till I 
threatened to strangle him if he made a sound or wasted 
time. In his joy he did not notice at first the table 
where the diamonds lay. I flung myself upon these, and 
deftly filled the pockets of my sailor s jacket and trousers 
with the stones. Ah ! Heaven, I did not take the third 
of them. Gold ingots lay underneath the table. I per- 
suaded my companion to fill as many bags as we could 
carry with the gold, and made him understand that this 
was our only chance of escaping detection abroad. 

* *^ Pearls, rubies, and diamonds might be recognised," 
I told him. 

* Covetous though we were, we could not possibly 
take more than two thousand livres weight of gola, 
which meant six journeys across the prison to the gondola. 
The sentinel at the water-gate was bribed with a bag 
containing ten livres weight of gold ; and as for the two 
gondoliers, they believed they were serving the Republic. 
At daybreak we set out. 

Facino Cane 245 

*Once upoR the open sea, when I thought of that 
night, when I recollected all that I had felt, when the 
vision of that great hoard arose before my eyes, and I 
computed that I had left behind thirty millions in silver, 
twenty in gold, and many more in diamonds, pearls, and 
rubies — then a sort of madness began to work in me. I 
had the gold fever. 

*We landed at Smyrna and took ship at once for 
France. As we went on board the French vessel, Heaven 
^voured me by ridding me of my accomplice. I did not 
think at the time of all the possible consequences of this 
mishap, and rejoiced not a little. We were so com- 
pletely unnerved by all that had happened, that we were 
stupia, we said not a word to each other, we waited till it 
should be safe to enjoy ourselves at our ease. It was not 
wonderful that the rogue's head was dizzy. You shall 
see how heavily God has punished me. 

* I never knew a quiet moment until I had sold two- 
thirds of my diamonds in London or Amsterdam, and 
held the value of my gold dust in a negotiable shape. 
For five years I hid myself in Madrid, then in 1770 I 
came to raris with a Spanish name, and led as brilliant a 
life as may be. Then in the midst of my pleasures, as I 
enjoyed a fortune of six millions, I was smitten with 
blinaness. I do not doubt but that my infirmity was 
brought on by my sojourn in the cell and my work in 
the stone, if, indeed, my peculiar faculty for ^seeing" 
gold was not an abuse of the power of sight which pre- 
destined me to lose it. Bianca was dead. 

^ At this time I had fallen in love with a woman to 
whom I thought to link my fate. I had told her the 
secret of my name ; she belonged to a powerful family ; 
she was a friend of Mme. du Barry ; I hoped everything 
from the favour shown me by Louis xv. ; I trusted in her. 
Acting on her advice, I went to England to consult a 
famous oculist, and after a stay of several months in 
London she deserted me in Hyde Park. She had 

24^ Facino Cane 

stripped me of all that I had, and left me without 
resource. Nor could I make complaint, for to disclose 
my name was to lay myself open to the vengeance of my 
native city ; I could appeal to no one for aid, I feared 
Venice. The woman put spies about me to exploit my 
infirmity. I spare you a tale of adventures worthy of Gil 
Bias. — Your Revolution followed. For two whole years 
that creature kept me at the Bicetre as a lunatic, then she 
gained admittance for me at the Blind Asylum ; there was 
no help for it, I went. I could not kill her ; Icould not see ; 
and I was so poor that I could not pay another arm. 

* If only I had taken counsel with my gaoler, Bene- 
detto Carpi, before I lost him, I might have known the 
exact position of my cell, I might have found my way 
back to the Treasury and returned to Venice when 
Napoleon crushed the Republic 

* Still, blind as I am, let us go back to Venice ! I shall 
find the door of my prison, I shall see the gold through 
the prison walls, I shall hear it where it lies under the 
water ; for the events which brought about the fall of 
Venice befell in such a way that the secret of the hoard 
must have perished with Bianca's brother, Vendramin, a 
doge to whom I looked to make my peace with the Ten. 
I sent memorials to the First Consul ; I proposed an 
agreement with the Emperor of Austria ; every one sent 
me about my business for a lunatic. Come ! we will go 
to Venice ; let us set out as beggars, we shall come back 
millionaires. We will buy back my estates, and you 
shall be my heir ! You shall be Prince of Varese ! * 

My head was swimming. For me his confidences 
reached the proportions of tragedy -, at the sight of that 
white head of his and beyond it the black water in the 
trenches of the Bastille lying still as a canal in Venice, I 
had no words to answer him. Facino Cane thought, no 
doubt, that I judged him, as the rest had done, with a 
disdainful pity ; his gesture expressed the whole philo- 
sophy of despair. 

Facino Cane 247 

Perhaps his story had taken him back to happy dajrs 
and to Venice. He caught up his clarionet and made 
plaintive music, playing a Venetian boat-song with some- 
thing of his lost skill, the skill of the young patrician 
lover. It was a sort of Super flumina Babybnis. Tears 
filled my eyes. Any belated persons walking along the 
Boulevard Bourdon must have stood still to listen to an 
exile's last prayer, a last cry of regret for a lost name, 
mingled with memories of Bianca. But gold soon 
gained the upper hand, the &tal passion quenched the 
light of youth. 

^ I see it always,' he said ; * dreaming or waking, I see 
it ; and as I pace to and fro, I pace in the Treasury, and 
the diamonds sparkle. I am not as blind as you think ; 
gold and diamonds light up my night, the night of the 
last Facino Cane, for my title passes to the Memmi. 
Mv God ! the murderer's punishment was not long 
delayed ! Ave Maria^ and he repeated several prayers 
that I did not heed. 

* We will go to Venice ! ' I said, when he rose. 

* Then I have found a man ! ' he cried, with his face 
on fire. 

I gave him my arm and went home with him. We 
reached the gates of the Blind Asylum just as some of the 
wedding guests were returning along the street, shout- 
ing at the tops of their voices. He squeezed my hand. 

* Shall we start to-morrow ? ' he asked. 

* As soon as we can get some money.' 

* But we can go on foot. I will beg. I am strong, 
and you feel young when you see gold before you.' 

Facino Cane died before the winter was out after a 
two months' illness. The poor man had taken a chill. 

Paris, March 1836. 

PriaMd b^T. «ad A. ComTAita, Muwiia Ha H^lMlr 
u U* Uiataufb UdTaibr FitM